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Harden, Durant both covet championship, mantle of best player

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com Houston -- Steve Kerr’s mind is made up. He’s seen enough. The debate is closed and conquered, the election over and the firm conclusion has been reached, at least from where he stands. Kevin Durant “is the best player in the world, the most skilled player in the world” according to Kerr, who may be biased, but he didn’t sound like it. Kerr said this not once, but four times in the last two weeks, just in case someone didn’t get the message. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] It’s hard to see where the Warriors’ coach is going wrong. Durant is evidently on a mission to (a) win his third and perhaps final championship with the Warriors, and (1-a) become universally recognized as the singularly greatest force in the league, a distinction that means so much to him. To paraphrase Durant, y’all know who he is by now. Durant is sitting at the mythical 50-40-90 threshold in the playoffs, the benchmark for shooting accuracy and efficiency from the floor, three-point range and free-throw line. He’s averaging 35 points in the postseason, 39 in the last seven games. He has two near-masterpieces, the 50-point closeout of the Clippers in the first round and 46 on the Rockets in Game 3 of this series. He’s making contested jumpers from all over the floor and from all angles. There’s really no defense for him. But when this series is over, James Harden hopes to change the conversation. If he does, that means (a) the Rockets will pull off a stunning comeback from being down two games, and (b) Harden out-dueled Durant in the process. Is either possible? Well, Harden might be the only player qualified to do so, even with a left eye that still looks like the Japanese flag. He managed to minimize if not eliminate that poked eye by chopping down the Warriors and pulling the Rockets within 2-1 of the series. “I was just being aggressive,” he said. “I was in attack mode.” He’s attacking something else. Harden, too, wants exactly the same as his friend and former Oklahoma City teammate. A championship would be his first, so obviously that’s paramount. The mantle of “game’s greatest player” is also desired because Harden believes the last four years bear that out. In that span, he won the MVP award and finished runner-up twice, better than anyone. Of course, the missing prize is the championship, which is the final and most authentic validation, and this season at least he must go through Durant to achieve that. Harden’s postseason hasn’t been as stellar as Durant’s, although perhaps Game 3 marked a shift. Harden scored 41 points and sent the Warriors home on a step-back three-pointer in the final seconds of overtime. He and the Rockets are bringing a fresh sense of confidence and also have Game 4 in their house. Sending this series all square back to Oakland wouldn’t be beyond his or their abilities. “In `Harden World,’ that was good, but he can play better,” said Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. “That’s James. That’s what he does.” There’s a growing sense among the Warriors, and with some justification, that Harden’s bloody eye is no longer an issue. Harden’s vision was pure when it counted two nights ago and every day brings him a step closer to normalcy, if he isn’t already there. “I think he’s good to go,” said D’Antoni. The other concern for Golden State: Harden’s beginning to figure out the rotations and the Warriors’ defensive scheme. They know Harden adapts quickly to defenders and their tendencies because, at this point, he’s seen it all. Harden is a tough cover because of his shooting range and unwillingness to lose confidence after a string of misses, and his craftiness off the dribble while attacking the rim. “He had 41 points and it was a good chess game,” said Andre Iguodala. “He made some really tough shots. Some shots, where you pat him on the butt, and you say ‘helluva shot’. I felt like it was a little bit of cat and mouse. A guy like that -- you can’t stop him one on one. The defense did a good job of helping off and stopping him. We just have to try to make it hard as possible for him.” The nightmare game for the Warriors is Harden hitting enough early baskets and forcing them to double, then finding teammates for open looks that they make, such as Eric Gordon. In that scenario, points would come in an avalanche and place stress on the defense and possibly get key players into foul trouble, most notably Draymond Green and a suddenly-foul-prone Steph Curry. There’s also an intriguing subplot in the works: The Harden-Durant can-you-top-this drama. With Curry and Chris Paul both performing below their standards in this series, the series seems fixated on Harden and Durant and  what they’re capable of doing to the other team and, by extension, against each other. There’s a genuine and hefty amount of respect between the two, who are friends away from the floor as well. Both left OKC and have since generated millions in endorsement money and find themselves near or at the top of the superstar pecking order. Durant has what Harden doesn’t, a championship. But perhaps Harden has what Durant craves, a team to call his own. That would be the only reason Durant leaves the Warriors in free agency this summer, because it’s difficult to imagine him signing with a team that offers a better chance to win championships or make more in salary than the one he’s already on. Durant earned more points with Harden a few days ago when he defended the Rockets guard, saying Harden doesn’t “cheat the rules” when he tries to draw fouls and manipulate the referees. Durant added: “He can do everything. If you’re not focused, he can drive past you, hit you with the shoulder because he’s strong, and finish with either hand. He can shoot floaters now. Obviously the step-back 3-pointer is one of his staples, but I never believed he was just a free throw guy. He can score in a variety of ways.” Harden must prove that in this series. Last season in the Western Conference finals, he turned to vapor as that series stretched seven games. He made just 24 percent from deep and, after Paul suffered a hamstring pull in Game Five, couldn’t handle the load. In the elimination game, he missed 11-of-13 from deep. Durant, meanwhile, was the star and weeks later would clinch another title and Finals MVP award, outplaying LeBron James in the process. So Kerr’s contention about Durant has much weight and credibility. Through three games of this second-round series, there’s been no reason to question the coach’s claim. Only one person can flip that perception and create doubt. James Harden, therefore, has a tough job ahead. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnMay 6th, 2019

21 active stars who should have their jersey retired someday

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Tony Parker is the latest all-time great to see his jersey raised to the rafters for his years of service in San Antonio. But he won’t be the last of his generation to be honored that way. Parker’ big night in San Antonio generated some interesting conversation about who, among current NBA players only, would be in line for similar honors someday. Keep in mind that the standards for a retired jersey with one franchise differs from one to another. Winning titles in Los Angeles or Boston -- or even Chicago or Golden State -- is a tougher sell than it is where there aren’t already multiple championship banners. Accomplishments matter … and so does sentiment, too. There are always unique variables at work when it comes to retiring jerseys, which is a much more significant honor than inducting a player into a franchise’s ring of honor. With Parker’s star-studded ceremony still fresh in our minds, here’s a list of other stars who will one day be able to see their jerseys up in the rafters: * * * LeBron James (Cavs and Heat): If there is anyone that’s an absolute lock to see his jersey raised high when he calls it a career, it’s LeBron. He delivered Cleveland a title, ending the city’s 52-year title drought, in his second stint with what is essentially his hometown team. Before that, he was the catalyst for the Heat’s four straight Finals trips (2011-14) and back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. The standard to join the Lakers’ retired-jersey fraternity is tougher, of course. The greatest Lakers get statues -- a fate that might await LeBron in Cleveland one day. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala (Warriors): Also known as the “Hamptons 5”, they will all be immortalized someday by Golden State. All five played a role in the championship fun and excitement they generated during the franchise’s golden era of the past half-decade. You can make case for all five of them to enjoy jersey retirement ceremonies on their own. That, however, would go against everything their “Strength In Numbers” era was about. Rest assured, though, that all five of them will have their day. James Harden (Rockets): Harden started his career as a super sixth man in Oklahoma City before rewriting his legacy after a trade to Houston. He’s already one of the most prolific and creative scorers the league has seen. The Rockets have had their fair share of legendary players and know what it’s like to bask in the championship glow provided by the rise of a transcendent player. Harden’s jersey will be in good company some day, perhaps right next to Hakeem Olajuwon’s No. 34. Russell Westbrook (Thunder): In an era where nearly every other elite superstar of his generation made a move via trade or free agency, Westbrook stuck to his roots in Oklahoma City until he had no choice but to move on. He endeared himself to generations of OKC fans by playing at a fever pitch from start to finish, earning All-Star, All-NBA and Kia MVP honors there. Being a part of a Finals team with Durant and Harden helped cement his legacy. Although he’s now in Houston, he’ll always have a place in the hearts of Thunder fans. Damian Lillard (Blazers): Lillard personifies the values of a basketball-mad fan base in a city that adores its team and stars in a unique way. The Blazers did their homework on the unheralded point guard from Weber State and have enjoyed everything that’s happened since. From his Kia Rookie of the Year campaign in 2013 to today, he has played out better than anyone could have imagined. Lillard, one of the most underappreciated stars of his generation, couldn’t have found a better match in a city and franchise. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): The rise of the "The Greak Freak" from obscure prospect to Kia MVP in just six seasons gives his story extra dramatic flair. His relentless work ethic helped change the culture in Milwaukee and branded him as a potential successor to James as the face of the league. The fact that he authored the greatest individual season in Bucks history since Kareem-Abdul Jabbar’s days has carved out a permanent space for Antetokounmpo’s jersey in franchise lore. Kemba Walker (Hornets): The face of the franchise in Charlotte for the first eight years of his career, Walker has since moved on to Boston. But he remains the Hornets’ career leader in several categories and was a beloved fan favorite for a team that never achieved any sustained postseason success. Few players of his or any era forged a connection to a city and franchise as Walker did with Charlotte. Derrick Rose (Bulls): Born and raised in Chicago, Rose (at 22) became the youngest player to win the Kia MVP in 2011. He also joined Michael Jordan and Elton Brand as the only Bulls to win Rookie of the Year honors. Even though knee injuries derailed his career in his hometown, he piled up enough early career accolades to one day be honored with a retired jersey. Although he never led the franchise back to championship prominence, he is the the most decorated Bull since MJ. Vince Carter (Raptors): How many players can say they served as the basketball inspiration for an entire nation? Carter can. His time with the Raptors served as the spark for generations of future NBA players, many of whom have gotten the chance to play with their childhood idol in the twilight of his future Hall of Fame career. His five seasons with the New Jersey Nets solidified his status as one of the best players of his generation. But his star was never brighter than it was from 1998-2004 when “Vinsanity” inspired Canada. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley (Grizzlies): These two should grit and grind their way to the rafters in Memphis, on the same night if possible. They helped usher in the greatest run in franchise history, spearheading a feisty and physical style that spoke to the city’s blue-collar ways. The “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies validated their rise to prominence with a West finals run in 2013 steered by Gasol and Conley. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (Raptors): Lowry and his best buddy DeRozan were separated before they could realize their dreams of winning a title together in Toronto. Lowry realized it last season alongside Kawhi Leonard, thus cementing his legacy as an all-time great Raptor. He’ll always have a place to call home north of the border because of the franchise-altering success that took place on his watch. DeRozan was a fan favorite who wanted to finish his career in Toronto. He, too, will always have a home in the city. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (Clippers): The LA end for these two was messier than it should have been, especially since they oversaw the “Lob City” era that revitalized the franchise. Time will surely heal all wounds, somewhere down the road. History will be kinder to the Clippers’ climb out of the doldrums than anyone was during their injury-tortured run. Griffin and Paul are locks for the Hall of Fame one day. Plus, a franchise without much history to celebrate could use a couple of jerseys to jazz up their new building. Kawhi Leonard (Raptors): Is a one-year surreal playoff run enough to warrant franchise immortality? Clippers fans are hoping Kawhi and Paul George give them a reason to raise their jerseys to the rafters someday, too. Right now, Leonard is a seeming lock for the honor with the Raptors, where his brief-but-fruitful stay there gave their rabid fan base their first NBA championship. Dwight Howard (Magic): After his first eight seasons in Orlando, Howard had a near slam-dunk case for the Hall of Fame and retired jersey status. Yes, his exit from Orlando was messy. And he has yet to find a way to part ways with any of the other franchises on good terms. Still, you can’t overlook his Magic-era feats: All-Star berths, three Kia Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-NBA first team nods and a Finals trip in 2009. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 13th, 2019

The NBA’s West race should be incredibly good this season

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Stephen Curry knew roster change was inevitable. That being said, Curry and the Golden State Warriors aren’t changing their expectations. The five-time defending Western Conference champions aren’t the popular pick to represent their side of the league in this season’s NBA Finals, understandable after losing the likes of Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala. But Curry said the Warriors will strive to remain what they’ve been over the last half-decade — “a team that’s feared across the league.” “Look at every era of basketball,” Curry said. “For a team to sustain this type of level of play and this greatness, it doesn’t happen that often. And when you need to retool, it may look different, but the great teams, great players figure it out as they go.” Thing is, there are so many great players — and potentially great teams — in the West this season. The Los Angeles Clippers are the prohibitive favorite to win the NBA title, at least according to oddsmakers in Las Vegas, after landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Los Angeles Lakers still have LeBron James, and added Anthony Davis. Houston reunited James Harden with Russell Westbrook. Denver and Utah bring back strong cores. Portland might have the league’s best backcourt. “You just can’t take it for granted,” Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said. “It’s really, really hard to win games in the NBA, especially the Western Conference, the way it is now.” Maybe harder than ever. “We want to maintain the culture that we’ve built, but we want to make sure our players are put in the best position to succeed, and the last four years we pretty much knew exactly what that meant,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We don’t really know what it means this year. That’s why we have a lot of work ahead, but it’s exciting. I’m looking forward to it.” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said the West will be great for fans and the league — not so much for coaches, players and owners. “Somebody is probably going to come in ninth and get fired when they shouldn’t because they did a great job,” D’Antoni said. “But that’s the way it is.” A look at the West, in predicted order of regular-season finish: PLAYOFF BOUND 1. Denver — The team that few are talking about, for puzzling reasons. They’re young, they already know how to win and the Nuggets’ win total has risen in each of coach Michael Malone’s first four seasons there. No reason to think that won’t continue. 2. Houston — James Harden is entering his 11th season. Russell Westbrook is entering his 12th. Mike D’Antoni is entering the last year of his contract. It sure seems like title-or-bust time in Houston, and the wide-open West could be for their taking. 3. L.A. Clippers — When Paul George gets back from his recovery from shoulder surgeries to join Kawhi Leonard on the new-look Clippers, this is going to be a team with frightening potential on defense. They’ll peak toward the end, and could win it all. 4. L.A. Lakers — This is absolutely not to say they’re the fourth-best team in the West. LeBron James knows it’s all about April, May and June, and he certainly isn’t going to care where the Lakers are seeded as long as they’re in the playoffs. 5. Utah — Donovan Mitchell is just starting to come into his own, Rudy Gobert is still the defensive player of the year and Joe Ingles is better than people realize. The addition of Bojan Bogdanovic was big, as was adding Mike Conley — if healthy. 6. Golden State — The five-time defending West champs lost Durant, Iguodala and Shaun Livingston — plus won’t have Klay Thompson for most of the season. But the Warriors still have Curry. Relax. They’ll be fine. 7. Portland — This is way too low, but that’s life in the West right now. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are elite, Terry Stotts is underrated and don’t be surprised if the Blazers tweak the roster after Jusuf Nurkic returns to take a title shot. 8. San Antonio — LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan lead a team that features a young core of Lonnie Walker IV, Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Oh, and Gregg Popovich is still there. Count the Spurs out at your own risk. IN THE MIX 9. Dallas — Dirk Nowitzki is gone, but the new star-duo pairing of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis has enormous potential. The Mavs haven’t won a playoff series since the 2011 NBA Finals, but this season will see them get closer. 10. Minnesota — Ryan Saunders’ first full season will lead to improvement, but even a five-game leap to .500 won’t get it done as far as a West playoff berth this season. But if Karl-Anthony Towns plays 82 games at his potential, who knows? 11. Sacramento — Rick Adelman took the Kings to their last playoff appearance in 2006. Luke Walton is the team’s 10th different coach since; he has Harrison Barnes, De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield, yet still faces a tall task. 12. New Orleans — Zion Williamson’s knee is already a concern, not a good sign for the No. 1 overall pick. Lonzo Ball’s shot is better and J.J. Redick has never missed a postseason. But if Williamson isn’t full-go, it may be tough sledding for New Orleans. FACING LONG ODDS 13. Oklahoma City — There is a lot of talent on this team: Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams. If all goes right, the Thunder will contend for a spot. Or will they make more trades and collect more picks? 14. Phoenix — Devin Booker is entering his prime. But the Suns have averaged 22 wins over the last four seasons, are on their fourth coach — Monty Williams — in a span of 24 months and still seem overmatched in the loaded West. 15. Memphis — The Grizzlies’ first-round pick in 2020 is top-six protected or else it conveys to Boston. The Celtics might not want to plan on getting this one. This year’s goal for the Grizzlies? Simple: Get Ja Morant settled into his new job. WHAT TO KNOW Three-Team Ring Circus Kawhi Leonard has a chance to win a ring with a third different team if the Clippers win the title. LeBron James and Danny Green would do the same if the Lakers win it all. The only players to win a championship with three different franchises: John Salley and Robert Horry. Spurs Streak San Antonio is bidding for a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance, which would give the Spurs outright possession of the NBA record. They’re currently tied with Philadelphia with 22 straight playoff trips (the 76ers’ franchise did it from 1950 through 1971, that span starting when they were the Syracuse Nationals). Wide Open The league’s general managers have wildly different views on which team will win the West. In NBA.com’s annual preseason polling of GMs, six different West teams — the Clippers, the Lakers, Golden State, Houston, Denver and Portland — got at least one vote as the conference’s best. LeBron Milestone LeBron James has 993 games of 20 or more points, third-most in NBA history. When he gets to 1,000 of those, he’ll be the last to hit that milestone for many years. Kevin Durant may be the next; he’s got 720. Good Sign With James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Houston becomes the sixth team to have two players who each won an MVP in the last three seasons. Of the other five, four — the 1959 and 1960 Boston Celtics, the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers and the 2017 Golden State Warriors — won an NBA title. The other was the 1984 76ers......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 19th, 2019

Clippers, Bucks lead NBA.com 2019-20 GM Survey

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com Included in all the player movement of this past summer was the last two Finals MVPs leaving the two teams that met in the 2019 Finals. And with more balance in the distribution of superstars, the race for the 2020 NBA championship appears to be wide open. There are favorites, of course. But with so many good players in new uniforms, we don't know how all the pieces are going to fit. We still asked the league's decision-makers to take their best guesses. And in the 18th annual NBA.com GM Survey, 46 percent of general managers have picked Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to lead the LA Clippers to their first NBA title. Leonard was not only named the offseason acquisition that would make the biggest impact, but is also the first player not named LeBron James to be named the league's best small forward since 2005. In the Eastern Conference, the league's GMs like Giannis Antetokounmpo (the player that 86 percent of them would start a franchise with) and the Milwaukee Bucks, who were named the top team in the East by 76 percent of the respondents. Zion Williamson isn't only the pick to win Kia Rookie of the Year and be the best of his class in five years, but he was also named the league's most athletic player … before suiting up for an official NBA game. The GMs responded to 50 different questions about the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel. Percentages are based on the pool of respondents to that particular question, rather than all 30 GMs. * * * PREDICTIONS Which team will win the 2020 NBA Finals? 1. LA Clippers -- 46% 2. Milwaukee Bucks -- 36% 3. Los Angeles Lakers -- 11% Also receiving votes: Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers Last year: Golden State – 87% Rank the top four teams in the Eastern Conference 2019-20 GM Survey, Eastern Conference rankings Last year: Ninety percent picked Boston to win the East. Order after the Celtics was Toronto, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Indiana, Washington and Miami. Rank the top four teams in the Western Conference Last year: Ninety percent picked Golden State to win the West. Order after the Warriors was Houston, Oklahoma City, Utah, L.A. Lakers, Portland/San Antonio, and Denver. PLAYERS Who will win the 2019-20 Kia MVP? 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 52% 2. Stephen Curry, Golden State -- 10%     Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers -- 10%     Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 10% 5. Nikola Jokic, Denver -- 7% Also receiving votes: James Harden, Houston; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Damian Lillard, Portland Last year: LeBron James – 30% If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be? 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 86% 2. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers -- 7%     Luka Doncic, Dallas -- 7% Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo -- 30% Which player forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments? 1. James Harden, Houston -- 48% 2. Stephen Curry, Golden State -- 17%     LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 17% 4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 14% 5. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn -- 3% Last year: LeBron James -- 60% Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2019-20? 1. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento -- 19% 2. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis -- 11%     Jayson Tatum, Boston -- 11% 4. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans -- 7%     Jamal Murray, Denver -- 7% Also receiving votes: Bam Adebayo, Miami; Lonzo Ball, New Orleans; Devin Booker, Phoenix; Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago; Zach Collins, Portland; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Dejounte Murray, San Antonio; Julius Randle, New York; Tomas Satoransky, Chicago; Pascal Siakam, Toronto; Zion Williamson, New Orleans Last year: Jamal Murray -- 20% Who is the best point guard in the NBA? 1. Stephen Curry, Golden State -- 90% 2. Damian Lillard, Portland -- 7% 3. LeBron James, LA Lakers -- 3% Last year: Stephen Curry -- 57% Who is the best shooting guard in the NBA? 1. James Harden, Houston – 86% 2. Paul George, LA Clippers – 7% Also receiving votes: Jimmy Butler, Miami; Klay Thompson, Golden State Last year: James Harden -- 73% Who is the best small forward in the NBA? 1. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 62% 2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 24% 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 14% Last year: LeBron James -- 57% Who is the best power forward in the NBA? 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 59% 2. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers -- 28% 3. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 10% 4. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio -- 3% Last year: Anthony Davis --  37% Who is the best center in the NBA? 1. Nikola Jokic, Denver -- 48% 2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia -- 28% 3. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers -- 17% Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Last year: Anthony Davis -- 40% OFFSEASON MOVES Which team made the best overall moves this offseason? 1. LA Clippers -- 82% 2. New Orleans Pelicans -- 11% Also receiving votes: Brooklyn Nets, Utah Jazz Last year: L.A. Lakers – 70% Which one player acquisition will make the biggest impact? 1. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 67% 2. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers -- 21% 3. Paul George, LA Clippers -- 12% Last year: LeBron James -- 97% What was the most underrated player acquisition? 1. Mike Conley, Utah -- 36% 2. Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah -- 14% 3. Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana -- 11%     Jerami Grant, Denver -- 11% 5. Tomas Satoransky, Chicago -- 7% Also receiving votes: Lonzo Ball, New Orleans; Derrick Favors, New Orleans; Danny Green, L.A. Lakers; Chris Paul, Oklahoma City; J.J. Redick, New Orleans; Josh Richardson, Philadelphia Last year: Tyreke Evans -- 13% Which team will be most improved in 2019-20? 1. Los Angeles Lakers -- 38% 2. Dallas Mavericks -- 21% 3. LA Clippers -- 10% 4. Atlanta Hawks -- 7%     Brooklyn Nets -- 7%     Chicago Bulls -- 7%     New Orleans Pelicans -- 7% 8. New York Knicks -- 4% Last year: L.A. Lakers -- 80% What was the most surprising move of the offseason? 1. Paul George trade to LA Clippers -- 52% 2. Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade -- 28% 3. Nikola Mirotic to FC Barcelona -- 7% Also receiving votes: Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana; Al Horford to Philadelphia; Kawhi Leonard to Clippers, Marcus Morris decommitting from San Antonio Last year: DeMarcus Cousins to Golden State -- 35% ROOKIES & INTERNATIONAL Who will win the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year? 1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 68% 2. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 29% 3. Darius Garland, Cleveland -- 4% Last year: Luka Doncic -- 43% Which rookie will be the best player in five years? 1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 68% 2. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 18% 3. Cameron Reddish, Atlanta -- 7% Also receiving votes: Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Darius Garland, Cleveland Last year: DeAndre Ayton & Jaren Jackson Jr. -- 27% Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft? 1. Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17), New Orleans -- 32% 2. Brandon Clarke (21), Memphis -- 21% 3. Goga Bitadze (18), Indiana -- 11% 4. Bol Bol (44), Denver -- 7%     Tyler Herro (13), Miami -- 7% Also receiving votes: Darius Bazley (23), Oklahoma City; Nicolas Claxton (31), Brooklyn; Daniel Gafford (38), Chicago; Darius Garland (5), Cleveland; Nasir Little (25), Portland; Cameron Reddish (10), Atlanta Last year: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander -- 27% Who is the best international player in the NBA? 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 79% 2. Nikola Jokic, Denver -- 14% 3. Luka Doncic, Dallas -- 7% Last year: Giannis Antetokounmpo -- 73% Who is the best international player NOT in the NBA? 1. Nikola Mirotic, FC Barcelona -- 55% 2. Nando de Colo, Fenerbahce -- 21% 3. Sergio Llull, Real Madrid -- 17% Also receiving votes: Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv; Jan Vesely, Fenerbahce Last year: Sergio Llull -- 39% DEFENSE Who is the best defensive player in the NBA? 1. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 45% 2. Rudy Gobert, Utah -- 28% 3. Draymond Green, Golden State -- 10% 4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 7%     Paul George, LA Clippers -- 7% 6. Anthony Davis, LA Lakers -- 3% Last year: Rudy Gobert & Kawhi Leonard -- 37% Who is the best perimeter defender in the NBA? 1. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 59% 2. Paul George, LA Clippers -- 21% Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; OG Anunoby, Toronto; Jimmy Butler, Miami; Jrue Holiday, New Orleans; LeBron James, LA Lakers; Klay Thompson, Golden State Last year: Kawhi Leonard -- 60% Who is the best interior defender in the NBA? 1. Rudy Gobert, Utah -- 93% Also receiving votes: Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers; Joel Embiid, Philadelphia Last year: Rudy Gobert -- 80% Who is the most versatile defender in the NBA? 1. Draymond Green, Golden State -- 38% 2. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 31% 3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 21% Also receiving votes: Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers; Paul George, LA Clippers; Pascal Siakam, Toronto Last year: Draymond Green -- 53% Which is the best defensive team in the NBA? 1. LA Clippers -- 52% 2. Utah Jazz -- 24% 3. Milwaukee Bucks -- 17% 4. Philadelphia 76ers -- 7% Last year: Utah -- 45% COACHES Who is the best head coach in the NBA? 1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio -- 55% 2. Erik Spoelstra, Miami -- 17% 3. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee -- 10% 4. Steve Kerr, Golden State -- 7% Also receiving votes: Steve Clifford, Orlando; Doc Rivers, LA Clippers; Quin Snyder, Utah Last year: Brad Stevens -- 47% Which head coach is the best manager/motivator of people? 1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio -- 41% 2. Doc Rivers, LA Clippers -- 31% 3. Steve Kerr, Golden State -- 17% Also receiving votes: Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn; Mike D'Antoni, Houston; Terry Stotts, Portland Last year: Gregg Popovich -- 47% Which head coach makes the best in-game adjustments? 1. Rick Carlisle, Dallas -- 28% 2. Brad Stevens, Boston -- 17% 3. Quin Snyder, Utah -- 14% 4. Steve Clifford, Orlando -- 10%     Gregg Popovich, San Antonio -- 10% 6. Nick Nurse, Toronto -- 7% Also receiving votes: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee; Michael Malone, Denver; Doc Rivers, LA Clippers; Erik Spoelstra, Miami Last year: Brad Stevens -- 53% Which head coach runs the best offense? 1. Steve Kerr, Golden State -- 38% 2. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee -- 14%     Mike D'Antoni, Houston -- 14%     Terry Stotts, Portland -- 14% 5. Michael Malone, Denver -- 7%     Nick Nurse, Toronto -- 7%     Quin Snyder, Utah -- 7% Last year: Steve Kerr -- 40% Which head coach has the best defensive schemes? 1. Quin Snyder, Utah -- 28% 2. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee -- 24% 3. Nate McMillan, Indiana -- 7%     Gregg Popovich, San Antonio -- 7%     Doc Rivers, LA Clippers -- 7%     Erik Spoelstra, Miami -- 7%     Brad Stevens, Boston -- 7% Also receiving votes: Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn; Dwane Casey, Detroit; Steve Clifford, Orlando; Nick Nurse, Toronto Last year: Quin Snyder -- 33% Which new or relocated head coach will make the biggest impact on his new team? 1. Monty Williams, Phoenix -- 43% 2. Frank Vogel, L.A. Lakers -- 21% 3. Luke Walton, Sacramento -- 18% 4. John Beilein, Cleveland -- 11% 5. Taylor Jenkins, Memphis -- 7% Last year: N/A Who is the best assistant coach in the NBA? 1. Dan Burke, Indiana -- 11%     Chris Finch, New Orleans -- 11%     David Vanterpool, Minnesota -- 11% 4. Darvin Ham, Milwaukee -- 7%     Alex Jensen, Utah -- 7%     Igor Kokoskov, Sacramento -- 7%     Tyronn Lue, LA Clippers -- 7%     Nate Tibbets, Portland -- 7% Also receiving votes: Ron Adams, Golden State; Chip Engelland, San Antonio; Chris Fleming, Chicago; Adrian Griffin, Toronto; Phil Handy, L.A. Lakers; Jason Kidd, L.A. Lakers; Keith Smart, New York; Ime Udoka, Philadelphia Last year: Ron Adams -- 17% Which active player will make the best head coach someday? 1. Mike Conley, Utah -- 26% 2. Chris Paul, Oklahoma City -- 19% 3. Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana -- 15% 4. Rajon Rondo, L.A. Lakers -- 11% Also receiving votes: Jalen Brunson, Dallas; Jared Dudley, L.A. Lakers; Andre Iguodala, Memphis; Kyle Korver, Milwaukee; C.J. McCollum, Portland; Doug McDermott, Indiana; Garrett Temple, Brooklyn; Lance Thomas, Brooklyn Last year: Chris Paul -- 25% MISCELLANEOUS Which team is the most fun to watch? 1. Denver Nuggets -- 31% 2. New Orleans Pelicans -- 21% 3. Golden State Warriors -- 17% 4. Milwaukee Bucks -- 10% 5. Portland Trail Blazers -- 7% Also receiving votes: Houston Rockets, LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings Last year: Golden State -- 60% Which team has the best home-court advantage? 1. Denver Nuggets -- 38% 2. Utah Jazz -- 24%     Golden State Warriors -- 24% 4. Portland Trail Blazers -- 7% Also receiving votes: Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors Last year: Golden State -- 50% Which team has the most promising young core? 1. New Orleans Pelicans -- 28% 2. Denver Nuggets -- 24% 3. Atlanta Hawks -- 17% 4. Sacramento Kings -- 10% 5. Philadelphia 76ers -- 7% Also receiving votes: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies Last year: Philadelphia -- 47% Which player is the most athletic? 1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 41% 2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 28% 3. Aaron Gordon, Orlando -- 7%     Derrick Jones Jr., Miami -- 7%     Mitchell Robinson, New York -- 7%     Russell Westbrook, Houston -- 7% 7. Zach LaVine, Chicago -- 3% Last year: Russell Westbrook -- 48% Which player is the best pure shooter? 1. Stephen Curry, Golden State -- 86% 2. Klay Thompson, Golden State -- 11% 3. J.J. Redick, New Orleans -- 4% Last year: Stephen Curry -- 73% Which player is the fastest with the ball? 1. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento -- 64% 2. Russell Westbrook, Houston -- 25% Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Stephen Curry, Golden State; Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Last year: Russell Westbrook -- 50% Which player is best at moving without the ball? 1. Klay Thompson, Golden State -- 43% 2. J.J. Redick, New Orleans -- 25% 3. Stephen Curry, Golden State -- 21% 4. Kyle Korver, Milwaukee -- 7% 5. C.J. McCollum, Portland -- 4% Last year: Klay Thompson -- 53% Which player is the best passer? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 57% 2. Nikola Jokic, Denver -- 32% 3. Chris Paul, Oklahoma City -- 7% 4. James Harden, Houston -- 4% Last year: LeBron James -- 50% What bench player makes the biggest impact when he enters the game? 1. Lou Williams, LA Clippers -- 79% 2. Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers -- 7%     Fred VanVleet, Toronto -- 7% Also receiving votes: Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn; Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Last year: Lou Williams -- 41% Who is the toughest player in the NBA? 1. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City -- 32% 2. Draymond Green, Golden State -- 18% 3. P.J. Tucker, Houston -- 14% 4. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 7% Also receiving votes: Aron Baynes, Phoenix; Patrick Beverley, LA Clippers; Udonis Haslem, Miami; Joe Ingles, Utah; Damian Lillard, Portland; Kyle Lowry, Toronto; Marcus Smart, Boston; Klay Thompson, Golden State Last year: Steven Adams -- 33% Which player is the best leader? 1. Damian Lillard, Portland -- 41% 2. Stephen Curry, Golden State -- 37% 3. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 15% Also receiving votes: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee; Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Last year: LeBron James -- 30% Who is the most versatile player in the NBA? 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee -- 46% 2. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 39% 3. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 7% Also receiving votes: Paul George, LA Clippers; Nikola Jokic, Denver Last year: LeBron James -- 63% Which player has the best basketball IQ? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 64% 2. Nikola Jokic, Denver -- 11% 3. Chris Paul, Oklahoma City -- 7%     Rajon Rondo, L.A. Lakers -- 7% Also receiving votes: James Harden, Houston; Al Horford, Philadelphia; Andre Iguodala, Memphis Last year: LeBron James -- 70% Which player would you want taking a shot with the game on the line? 1. Stephen Curry, Golden State -- 44% 2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn -- 11%     Damian Lillard, Portland -- 11%     Klay Thompson, Golden State -- 11% 5. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn -- 7%     Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 7% Also receiving votes: James Harden, Houston; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers Last year: Kevin Durant -- 40% What rule (regarding play, Draft/Lottery, playoff format, etc.) most needs to change? 1. Playoff seeding (1-16) -- 18% 2. Draft (Better combine or more medical info) -- 11%     Draft Lottery -- 11%     Free agency (Before Draft or no moratorium) -- 11%     Schedule (Fewer games, no back-to-backs) -- 11% Also receiving votes: Conference realignment, Draft one-and-done rule, Eliminate tanking, Extra foul in overtime, FIBA goaltending, Increased control of G League players, Instant replay, Midseason tournament, No FGA for half-court heaves, Roster size, Tampering Last year: Playoff seeding – 18%.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 18th, 2019

30 Teams in 30 Days: Rockets see Harden, Westbrook team up

Like most summers in the NBA, the 2019 edition was chock full of trades, free agent news and player movement. From the defending-champion Toronto Raptors to just about every other team in the league, change was the most applicable word when it came to describing team rosters for the 2019-20 season. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- in order of regular-season finish from 2018-19 -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Houston Rockets 2018-19 Record: 53-29, lost to the Warriors in the conference semifinals Key additions: Russell Westbrook (trade), Tyson Chandler (free agency), Ben McLemore (free agency) Key departures: Chris Paul The lowdown: Juiced by yet another epic, and on some levels, historic season by James Harden, the Rockets amassed 50 wins, reached the playoffs and were denied (again) by the Golden State Warriors. As in 2018, this ouster was met with a high degree of frustration. The year before, Houston lost Paul to a hamstring injury late in the series and fell in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. This time, the Rockets were unable to beat a Golden State team that clinched the series in Game 6 without Kevin Durant (who got injured in Game 5 of the series), a cold slap of an ending to Houston's realistic Finals hopes. In one of the NBA's all-time best offensive seasons, Harden averaged 36.1 points per game and revived Houston's season while Paul was on the mend from yet another injury. Harden scored 30 or more in 32 straight games, scored 50 or more nine times and had two 61-point games. He was a singular force with the ball and didn’t show any wear in the postseason. Unlike Paul, Harden was a symbol of sturdiness and strength, averaging 36.8 minutes per game in 78 games played. Paul played only 58 games, although when healthy he was respectable (8.2 apg) and at times looked like an All-Star. However, his customarily high level of play dropped a few floors. Eric Gordon played solid enough to earn a max extension, and Clint Capela gave the Rockets a front-line weapon at both ends. The Carmelo Anthony experience folded after 10 games, but Houston got supporting help from Austin Rivers and PJ Tucker (who was noticeably effective in the playoffs). Another effective-yet-disappointing year was unacceptable to ownership and, quite honestly, the locker room as well. Summer summary: When he purchased the Rockets for $2.2 billion a few years ago, owner Tilman Fertitta was a reasonable and patient man. He pledged his faith in GM Daryl Morey, sung the gospel of Harden and thought the world of Paul. But everyone has their limits and Fertitta was clearly discouraged by the manner and speed in which the Rockets were bounced last season. Something had to be done and a big opportunity presented itself. When Kawhi Leonard signed with the LA Clippers and convinced Paul George to request a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, it led to Westbrook being available. While this was happening, Harden and Paul were having relationship issues, or at least that was the word in Rockets’ circles. Just two years earlier they were thrilled to be teammates and even made commercials together. Now, they were on the outs. Therefore, the solution was simple: Trade Paul and his hefty contract for Westbrook and his hefty contract, and reunite a pair of Kia MVP winners. Advantage, Rockets? It bears repeating that Harden and Westbrook are tight and respectful of each other’s accomplishments, because this will be worth revisiting if this attempt to help Harden win a ring fails like the others. That relationship is the selling point, because based purely on styles of play, this appears to be major clash. Both players need the ball, perhaps more than any two players in the NBA right now, if not in history. They’re high-usage talents, meaning, they work best when creating opportunities for themselves or teammates and neither can happen if they’re playing off the ball. Westbrook has never done that in his NBA life and Harden only did so briefly as a youngster with OKC. Harden gave the trade his blessing, and once the deal was done, both players said all the right things -- if anything, they scolded any observers who dared to raise the obvious. Can it work? Well, sure, but it’ll take some concessions by both players, and coach Mike D’Antoni must change (if not overhaul) his system in order to accommodate this duo. Meanwhile, the Rockets are somewhat on the clock. It is not to say that Harden and Westbrook are approaching their sunset years, but the chances of playing for a title are increased if the two players click sooner than later. There’s also a question of what Westbrook has left. His efficiency and 3-point shooting faded last season. Will defenses respect him when he’s left open in Houston? He at least appears to have more in the tank than Paul, which was another reason the Rockets were anxious to make this swap. For all of his explosiveness, Westbrook is rather durable and dependable; the same can’t be said of Paul as he approaches his mid-30s. Westbrook was sad to leave OKC, the only team he’d ever known, a city that embraced him and a franchise that gave him a supermax contract. Now he’s going to a new team where the demand for June basketball will only increase. The last time he and Harden were teammates, they did play in June, where they lost to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. Can they make a triumphant return together? Given all they’ve accomplished -- MVPs, scoring titles, triple-doubles, All-Star appearances -- they’re certainly due. A championship is all they’re missing. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 26th, 2019

Cohesion keeps building for Team USA at FIBA World Cup

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com SHENZHEN -- Over the last few weeks, members of the United States Men's National Team have often said this about their opponents: "They've been playing together for a long time." Sometimes, it's accurate. Sometimes, it's not. Only four of the nine rotation players for Turkey, the team that almost beat the U.S. in its second game here at the FIBA World Cup, were in the rotation for Turkey at Eurobasket two years ago. In comparison to this version of Team USA, which came together exactly five weeks ago Monday, yes, the opponent typically has more continuity from summer to summer. The "they've been playing together for a long time" thing has also been drilled into American players as they prepare for FIBA play. It comes out of their mouths pretty easily when they're asked about an opponent or why a game was tougher than it should have been in regard to the talent on the floor. Maybe it's an excuse. Maybe it's just reality. USA coach Gregg Popovich, in talking after his team's 89-73 victory over Brazil on Monday, said, "Those guys have been together awhile" about the opponent. But down the hall from where Popovich took the podium, there was something new. It was the opponent saying the following about the Americans: "It looks like they've been playing together for a long time." The opponent was NBA veteran Anderson Varejao, who has seen multiple versions of the U.S. National Team. And after facing this one, he made note of the chemistry. "That's a great complement," Kemba Walker said when told about Varejao's appraisal. "I think we're getting it." If there ever was a U.S. National Team where the whole needed to be greater than the sum of the parts, this is it. This team does not have the offensive superstars that past teams have had. Walker: 'Chemistry is coming along' In the gold medal game of the 2010 World Championship, Kevin Durant scored 28 points against Turkey. In the gold medal game of the 2012 Olympics, he dropped 30 on Spain. In 2014, Kyrie Irving and James Harden combined for 52 points against Serbia in the World Cup final. And in the 2016 Olympics, the U.S. took gold behind another 30 points from Durant against the Serbs. Through five games at this tournament, no U.S. player has scored more than 20 points in a game. And the only 20-point game came from Jaylen Brown against a team (Japan) that went 0-5 with the tournament's third worst defense, statistically. That doesn't mean that the U.S. can't be a good offensive team. It just has to be a more cohesive offensive team than American teams of the past. "We just need each other so bad," Walker said. "And I think we're starting to realize that each and every game. These teams are so good. These teams are so tough. It's just taking everybody and everything we've got to win these games. The chemistry is coming along really well." You could start to see it against Greece on Saturday, though the Americans shot just 36 percent and barely scored a point per possession (69 on 68). The ball movement was sharper than it had been previously and they got a lot of open shots that just didn't fall. Some of those shots started to fall on Monday, and the U.S. had its second-most efficient offensive game of the 10 its played (including exhibitions), scoring 89 points on 75 possessions (1.19 per). The only more efficient game its had was against the aforementioned, 30th-ranked Japan defense. In that Japan game, the U.S. never scored on more than five consecutive possessions. Prior to Monday at the World Cup, its longest stretch of consecutive scores was six straight against the Czech Republic in Game 1. In that ugly win over Greece on Saturday, the U.S. never scored on more than three consecutive possessions, and only twice scored on three straight. But spanning the third and fourth quarters against Brazil on Monday, the U.S. scored 10 straight times. It was a 24-10 run that broke the game open and was fueled by an offense that's gaining more confidence and more cohesion, especially against zone defense, which was a real struggle just six days earlier. "I think we're starting to get more familiar with one another," Joe Harris said. "I think you see it every game where the ball really moves a lot offensively, and then you're sacrificing for one another defensively." Quick decisions critical to success There was some individual excellence in that run, but the final three points came when Myles Turner made a quick flash to the ball and an even quicker pass to Walker for a three from the top of the key against the zone. The U.S. had mostly been winning with a defense that ranks first in the World Cup (84 estimated points allowed per 100 possessions) through pool play. Defense will remain critical, because the offense of their opponent (France) in Wednesday's quarterfinal ranks second (123 estimated points scored per 100), behind only that of the potential opponent in the semifinals (Serbia, 129 per 100). Although this U.S. team doesn't have those elite bucket-getters, it will still need to get buckets -- and it will need to get them via cohesion, quick actions and decisiveness (like Turner displayed on his assist to Walker). Sometimes, you can get by on talent. The U.S. is, once again, the only team in the tournament with 12 NBA players. But this team needs to get more out of its talent than teams of the past. The more games they play, the more the Americans know what they're doing collectively. They've seemingly taken a big step forward over the last week. And in the eyes of Varejao, the U.S. is, for once, one of the teams that "has been playing together for a long time." "Chemistry is built once you hit adversity together and you got to push through it," Jaylen Brown said, "and we've been challenged multiple times on this trip." The toughest challenge to date will come Wednesday against the best opponent the U.S. has faced in the first elimination game its played. But the Americans seem more ready, and more together, than ever. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 10th, 2019

All-Decade Team: Some names to watch in 2020s

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com Picking the best players of the past decade can be a delightful process, a walk down memory lane that highlights the best of the NBA’s best from the most recently completed era. We took care of that for you earlier this week with NBA.com's All-Decade Team for the 2010s. Data and established success provide the context needed to make a strong case when you're looking back. But you can't rely on those conventions when trying to decide what, and perhaps more appropriately, who, comes next. Questions linger for the big stars of the 2010s who would normally transition into the next decade with similar status. How will Kevin Durant look when he comes back from a season lost to an Achilles injury? What will Klay Thompson’s game look like post-ACL injury? There’s no saying how the summer’s superstar free agent and trade shuffle will impact career trajectories for older stars like Durant (going from Golden State to Brooklyn) and Russell Westbrook (going from Oklahoma City to Houston). Young stars just entering the league (or still finding their way) are bound to emerge in the coming years. On the other hand, established veterans will see the inevitable fading of their star status. That uncertain future for so many is part of what makes today’s exercise so much fun. We are peering into our crystal ball and projecting the future, identifying the stars who, a decade from now, might find their names on the best-of-the best list for the 2020s. * * * * = players who made a 2010s All-Decade Team Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks * "The Greek Freak" finished off the 2010s with his first Kia MVP and should be poised to compete for more this decade. He’s only scratched the surface of his immense potential and should be in the thick of the race for best player of the decade. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors * One half of the sweetest shooting backcourts in NBA history, Curry and his fellow Splash Brother, Thompson, could make the next All-Decade Team, too. That would require them to prove they’re still playing championship-level basketball in the Bay Area post-Durant. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers * Davis is finally positioned to chase championships and will do so as he enters the physical prime of his career. With Davis and LeBron James leading the way, the Lakers begin the next decade poised for a return to legitimate contender status. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks The reigning Kia Rookie of the Year gave us all a preview of what’s to come. Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are the foundational players expected to fuel the Mavericks the way Dirk Nowitzki did the past two decades. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers If Embiid stays healthy, he’s good enough to challenge for the unofficial title of best player of the 2020s. His availability is the most critical component for a Sixers organization that believes it is on the cusp of championship contention. Paul George, LA Clippers * George has fully bounced back from his devastating leg injury in 2014, earning a place among the NBA’s elite by finishing third in the Kia MVP voting to close out the 2010s. The only thing left on his to-do-list is to make the championship dreams of Clippers fans a reality. James Harden, Houston Rockets * Finding a new groove alongside Westbrook will determine the Rockets’ championship fate and perhaps Harden’s legacy. Harden’s Hall of Fame status is secured. He just needs a title to complete his trophy case.   LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers * Could he win a Kia MVP in three different decades? LeBron has broken the mold in just about every way imaginable to this point of his career, so it would be foolish to doubt him. He’s also got a chance to add to his title haul in the next decade as well. As for Father Time … what does that matter? Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets After winning a title as the supporting star in LeBron’s homecoming story in Cleveland, Irving hopes to revisit that magic in Brooklyn once Durant is healthy again. While Irving has some repair to do to his reputation after his final season in Boston, his talent remains undeniable. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets Some would argue that Jokic (and not Embiid) finished the decade as the NBA’s best big man. The Nuggets are banking on it, as they’ve built their operation around the triple-double versatility of the 24-year-old All-Star known as “The Joker.” Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers * Leonard load managed his way to a title in Toronto but has already declared himself ready to play without limitations as he attempts to bring a championship parade to his hometown. He’s at the height of his powers right now and, with good health, will be for the foreseeable future. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Lillard was noticeably absent from the 2010s All-Decade Team, but he shouldn’t have to worry about that happening in the 2020s. The face and soul of the franchise in Portland, Lillard knows that the next step for he and CJ McCollum is a Finals berth. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz If the addition of veteran Mike Conley has the impact Utah’s braintrust expects, Mitchell is primed to rise any ranking of the West’s (and NBA’s) top players. Don’t be surprised if he snags a scoring title (or two) in the next decade. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics With Kyrie Irving gone, Tatum and the Celtics can get back to the performances he provided during the 2018 playoffs as a rookie. The Celtics have refused to trade Tatum for a reason. He’s got the array of skills that a team values in a wing scorer. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks Any pre-Draft trepidation about Young was overturned after his strong finish to his rookie season. A splendid passer with Splash Bros.-type range, Young will grow and mature physically into the leader of a franchise revival in Atlanta. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2019

Rockets goal for next season is to get healthy and better, says James Harden

James Harden is coming off yet another MVP-caliber season, leading the Houston Rockets to another post-season berth, after what was a rocky start to the season.  Facing a litany of injuries to key players like Chris Paul and Clint Capela, Harden went on a historic run that saw him score 30-plus points in 32 straight games to pull the Rockets back into the playoff picture from an 11-13 record.  "Just the will, finding the will to win games," Harden said of his stellar streak. The 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player is currently in the Philippines for his two-day adidas Free To Harden Manila 2019 tour, and was able to answer some questions from the media, Wednesday.  "Throughout that 32-games, it was a stretch of scoring, throughout the other course of the games, it was maybe assists, it was maybe defense, a variety of things." "I think every game is it’s own challenge and you have to find ways to impact the games and try to win the games, and so, throughout the course of the season, you might have injuries, you might have guys out of the lineups, you can’t let that sidetrack you, you have to focus on winning that game, and that was kind of my mindset," he continued.  While the Rockets did make it back into the postseason, finishing with another 50-win season and the fourth seed in the tough Western Conference, they again saw their title dreams come to a crashing halt at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, who just a season prior, eliminated them in Game 7 the Western Conference Finals.  With the Warriors' spot at the top of the Western Conference now in question due to the looming free agency as well as injuries to key guys in Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, Harden says that the Rockets just need to get better to put themselves in a position to contend for the title again.  "Just get a little bit better, that’s all we can do, from an individual [standpoint], myself, Chris, Clint, PJ, Eric, all guys get a little bit better, and then for the front office to bring in more skilled, more talented guys that have championship nature and want to win into the locker room. [We need] to continue to put ourselves in that position," he explained. "I think two years ago, we were so successful, we were one game away from the Finals because we had vets, we had guys that’s been through it throughout the course of the league for a long time, they had longevity in the NBA, and then last year we just went through so much adversity as far as injuries and trades, and we fought through it and we still got to a top-4 seed in the west. [We just need to] keep healthy, keep getting better, and just try to put ourselves in a position to be successful," Harden added.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 26th, 2019

BLOGTABLE: Can Rockets shoot down Warriors?

NBA.com staff report Do the Rockets have a better chance, same chance, or no chance to beat the Warriors this year? * * * Tas Melas: Better chance. Meeting a round earlier benefits the Rockets' best player because James Harden's performance declines as he gets deeper in to the playoffs. The Warriors just lost consecutive home games for the first time since the Cavs in 2016 (the 3-1 horror show) which means home court doesn't mean all that much. These Warriors don't look as on point as their last two championship teams. The Rockets are better rested, Steph turned his ankle Friday (Saturday, PHL time), and so did Klay. Still, they're the favorite. [Watch the Playoffs on NBA League Pass for 30% less with this limited time offer! Select Annual package and use code SAVE30 at checkout to redeem] Shaun Powell: Same chance. Unless you strongly believe Trevor Ariza would've made a big difference in this series, this is virtually the same core the Rockets offered up last season when they took the Warriors to the limit. It's all about James Harden and Kevin Durant, and how efficient they can be. One advantage is Harden is seeing the Warriors much earlier this time, meaning he's fresh compared to last spring. John Schuhmann: It's about the same, which means that they have a decent chance. Two factors in the Rockets' favor ... 1. The Warriors look more vulnerable going into the series, having been unable to flip the switch defensively as well as they did last year. 2. James Harden has become an even better scorer over the last 12 months. Two points in the Warriors' favor ... 1. Not having Trevor Ariza makes it a little more difficult for the Rockets' defense to switch as effectively as it did last year. 2. The champs have home-court advantage this time. Sekou Smith: The Rockets have a better chance this time around for a couple of reasons. The Warriors are even more vulnerable now than they were when the Rockets had them down 3-2 in the Western Conference finals last spring. And the Rockets, given their experience dealing with the Warriors in that setting, are better equipped to handle the challenge now. That doesn't mean I'm picking the Rockets to knock off the two-time reigning champs, not as long as the Warriors have home court advantage and a dialed in Kevin Durant on their side. But the opportunity is knocking for the Rockets (or perhaps someone else, say from the Eastern Conference) to end the Warriors' current run. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could both be dealing with lingering ankle issues in the conference semifinals and the Rockets have gotten a few extra days of rest. If ever they are going to do it, the time is now. Steve Aschburner: Better chance. Now, let’s not get it twisted, I’m not saying it’s going to happen. But I've been saying for months that it might be 2-3 teams, rather than one, that knocks off the defending champs in a cumulative effort, and Houston just got more help than expected from the Clippers. It also has to have benefited from its experience against the Warriors in last year’s playoffs. And Chris Paul is – for the moment, anyway – healthy. Golden State has not consistently looked like its former dominant self and get minimal time between rounds. Look, I don’t think the Rockets are as good this spring as they were a year ago, but neither are the Warriors. So if Houston can avoid more 7-of-44 nonsense, they might flip the outcome. Might......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 28th, 2019

UAAP 82: Ateneo s future still bright with Player of the Week SJ Belangel

With Ateneo floor leader Matt Nieto having, at most, three games left in his collegiate career, another point guard is looking more than ready to take up the mantle for the Blue Eagles: SJ Belangel. The crafty sophomore came up big in dropping a career-high 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in just 13 minutes in Ateneo’s 86-64 mauling of UP to close out the elimination round last Wednesday. The 20-year-old guard’s scoring burst in limited time helped the two-time defending champions seal the first 14-0 sweep and outright finals berth in UAAP seniors basketball since UE's feat 12 years ago. Because of this, Belangel was awarded his first-ever Chooks-to-Go Collegiate Press Corps UAAP Player of the Week award. Right now, the Blue Eagles’ promising prospect is not only playing for another championship, but for his graduating seniors as well. “Sa akin lang, para 'to sa mga seniors ko especially kay kuya Matt at kuya Mike [Nieto] at saka siyempre yung ibang seniors kasi last year na nila,” he said after yet another triumph over the Fighting Maroons whom they downed in last year's Finals. “Nung juniors, wala akong chance na makasama sila kaya lagi ko na lang nire-remind sa sarili na lalaro ako para sa mga seniors ko. Luckily, maganda laro ko.” Even in an impressively deep rotation like Ateneo’s, Belangel has managed to carve out his niche as a reliable reserve for Tab Baldwin with averages of 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists on 40.5 percent shooting from the three-point area in just under 12 minutes. Though he has quite a few more steps to take before realizing his potential, Belangel is just chipping in whatever help he can give whenever his number is called, especially now that Ateneo is just two wins away from a three-peat. “Lagi lang ready whether pinapalaro ka or 'di man,” he said. “Basta pag nasa bench ka, kapag tinawag ka ni coach, laging ready lang. Kahit one minute ka lang, bigay mo lahat.” Belangel bested a list of veterans like La Salle’s Jamie Malonzo, UE's Rey Suerte, Adamson's Mar Prado, and National U's Jack Animam for the weekly award handed out by print and online scribes covering the beat......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 4th, 2019

Beware of early overreactions after the NBA s opening week

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Beware the overreaction. It’s an easy trap to fall into at this time of year: Look at the early numbers in the NBA, extrapolate those over 82 games and envision the statistically improbable somehow becoming real. Don’t do it. Atlanta’s Trae Young is averaging 38.5 points per game right now which won’t hold up over an entire season. Same goes for Houston’s James Harden, who isn’t going to stay at his current shooting rate of 24% from the field and 12% from 3-point range. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to foul out of every game, either. And Golden State isn’t going to go 0-82. The Warriors may be the biggest disappointment of the first week of this NBA season, blown out by 19 at home to the Los Angeles Clippers and then by 28 — a game where the deficit was as much as 42 — on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) at Oklahoma City. “We’re just not that good right now,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “I don’t know a better way to frame that for you. I could try in Spanish, but I’m not really that good in Spanish.” They haven’t just lost. They haven’t even led yet — not for a single second. They got down 14-0 in the opener to the Clippers, then 8-0 to the Thunder. But to write off the Warriors — the five-time defending Western Conference champions — after two games would be beyond short-sighted. “We’re trying to develop an identity as a team and it doesn’t happen overnight,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And when you play in the NBA every single night, you’re going against amazing basketball players.” Golden State still has Green and Stephen Curry. The Warriors added D’Angelo Russell. They won’t have Klay Thompson until late this season, if at all in 2019-20. The NBA Finals MVPs from 2015, 2017 and 2018 — Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant — aren’t there anymore. It’s not starting over. It’s definitely a restart, though. The Warriors’ halftime deficit of 33 points on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) was their largest since 1997. “This is not where we finish,” said Omari Spellman, one of the Warriors’ new faces. “It’s Game 2. But there are only so many times we can keep saying that. ... We’ve got to compete.” The Warriors used 11 players on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), and seven of them were playing elsewhere last season — whether in the NBA or still in college. That’s why Kerr says the Warriors “don’t have a sense of who we are as a team yet.” “I realize I’m making plenty of excuses,” Kerr said. “But they’re real.” JENKINS’ PATH Champions of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas don’t get rings. They get T-shirts. Memphis won the title this past summer, and Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins — who decided to coach the team in Las Vegas as well — keeps his championship shirt in his wardrobe rotation as a reminder of what happened over those two weeks. “I bust it out every now and then,” Jenkins said. The next championship will be a little bit tougher. Jenkins is one of two first-time NBA coaches this season, with Cleveland’s John Beilein being the other. Beilein is 66 and went to the Final Four twice with Michigan. Jenkins is 35 and his most notable experience as a head coach before now was in the G League. No one asks Beilein if he’s ready for the NBA. Jenkins — who has studied under Gregg Popovich and Mike Budenholzer — has heard that question a lot. “I’ve been preparing,” Jenkins said. He knows he still has a ton to learn, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel prepared for where he is. WHAT TO WATCH A game to watch each day this week (days in PHL time): — Tuesday, Oklahoma City at Houston: Russell Westbrook faces the Thunder for the first time. — Wednesday, Atlanta at Miami: Jimmy Butler is expected to finally make his debut for the Heat. — Thursday, Indiana at Brooklyn: Malcolm Brogdon guarding Kyrie Irving will be must-watch TV. (Also, if the World Series goes seven games, Houston’s basketball team will be in Washington while Washington’s baseball team is in Houston.) — Friday, San Antonio at L.A. Clippers: The Clippers have won their last five Halloween games. — Saturday, L.A. Lakers at Dallas: First matchup between LeBron James and Kristaps Porzingis since Nov. 13, 2017. — Sunday, Toronto at Milwaukee: A rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals. — Next Monday, Sacramento at New York: Kings have missed 13 straight postseasons, Knicks six......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 28th, 2019

5 players who could challenge for the 2019-20 NBA MVP

By Sekou Smith, NBA.om James Harden was spot on when he said he lost the Kia MVP race last season because of a narrative. That wasn’t the only reason he came up short to Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo en route to his historic season in 2018-19. Antetokounmpo’s intriguing basketball life story decidedly played a part in voters’ minds, many of whom are in the narrative business. “Once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and just run with it the entire year," Harden said in an August radio interview with 97.9 The Box. "I don’t want to get into details. All I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. There’s only a few other seasons that anybody has ever done that before.” Blaming the media is a cop out. But there is merit in Harden’s assessment -- that the media-spun narrative surrounding a player’s candidacy for MVP has an oversized impact on the race itself. Every NBA MVP has had an underlying story that has helped push their case for the award along. Westbrook won his MVP the season after Kevin Durant left for Golden State in free agency. That season, Westbrook averaged a triple-double -- the first to do so since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62. Harden won his after finishing second twice in other bids (2015 and 2017). Antetokounmpo clinched his after turning in the finest season Milwaukee had seen since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the third of his record six MVPs in 1973-74. Harden didn’t complain about narratives when he won in 2018, so there’s no need to throw shade at Antetokounmpo or others for doing likewise. There will be new players who enter this season’s Kia MVP mix, which kicks off in earnest during this first full weekend of the season. We know the usual suspects: Antetokounmpo, Harden, Westbrook, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Paul George and Kyrie Irving. But what about the players who should be on your radar in 2019-20? Here are five to keep an eye on: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets “The Joker” finished fourth in 2018-19, his first season as an All-Star and his first playoff run. His true breakout MVP opportunity is this season, now that he’s established himself as arguably the best big man in basketball. Jokic must battle his own instincts to stay in the mix. He’s a better passer than most of the league’s point guards and would rather make the right play than chase individual glory. “When you score, one person is happy. But when you [get an assist], you make two people happy,” Jokic said. “I’m smart enough to know that two is better than one.” Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Lillard’s sixth-place finish in 2018-19 did justice to the Western Conference finals run he took the Blazers on. This may just be the beginning of the prime of “Dame Dolla’s” career. While many superstars have no hesitation about seeking the most desirable destination to play in, Lillard’s devotion to Portland’s quest will only enhance his case. Lillard is one of the best point guards in the league and if the Blazers challenge for a top seed in the West, he’ll stay in the top of the MVP chase, too. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz Mike Conley’s addition could unlock things for Mitchell. His opening-night performance proved that even when Conley struggles offensively, Mitchell can still dominate the action. A summer spent with the U.S. Men’s Senior National team may have only boosted his momentum. True, teammate Rudy Gobert -- the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year -- is a fringe MVP candidate as well. But a hot start to 2019-20 will fuel his campaign in ways that rim protection and low-post stability cannot for Gobert. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves Towns hasn’t been shy about his desire to be the man in the middle of the Wolves’ franchise rebranding. Even as Kyrie Irving scored 50 in the season opener, it was Towns who was truly dominant in that game. He’ll regularly pile up nights like that under coach Ryan Saunders, who has embraced the increased leadership role Town has sought this season. The talent has never been in question concerning Towns -- now he can showcase, too. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat While most of the summer’s high-profile free agents went one way, the always-interesting Butler did not. Given his track record of believing in the power of Jimmy, it shouldn’t have surprised us that Butler bet on himself in Miami. While it might seem like a strange choice on the surface, it might end up being a genius move if a scrappy Heat team rises in the ranks of the Eastern Conference. If nothing else, Butler will have plenty of opportunities this season to prove his elite two-way skills. Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 26th, 2019

Harden and Westbrook back together to chase title in Houston

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden and Russell Westbrook are thrilled to be reunited in Houston and can’t wait to prove they will work just fine together. And Harden knows the rest of the team is excited about the addition of the eight-time All-Star as well. “I enjoy it but I know that everybody else enjoys it, too,” he said. “They get more shot opportunities ... with another guy that gets to the rim and draws so much attention to create opportunities for his teammates. Obviously he plays at a different pace than I do. He plays way faster than I do but we are both trying to accomplish the same thing, making sure our teammates get involved and we share the wealth.” Westbrook joined the Rockets this summer in a stunning trade that sent the longtime face of the Oklahoma City Thunder to Houston in exchange for Chris Paul. The deal brought Harden and Westbrook back together after the guards spent three seasons together with the Thunder at the start of Harden’s career. It was a trade that came with questions about how two players used to handling the ball will be able to work together. Both brushed off the concerns, and insist they’ll make it work to chase an NBA championship in a conference loaded with powerhouse teams. “I impact the game in so many different ways and I’ve proven that for many years and that’s why I’m not worried,” Westbrook said. “I don’t have to have the ball to impact the game. I don’t have to score. I can defend. I can rebound. I can pass. I can lead.” Westbrook, the 2017 MVP who is entering his 12th season, said statistics don’t matter to him. “My main goal and main focus is to win,” he said. “I can go in a game and be scoreless and if we win that’s the best thing that ever happened and that’s all I care about and all I’ve always cared about.” Harden, who led the NBA in scoring last season for the second straight year by averaging 36.1 points, said he welcomes having another player on the team who can lessen his load a bit. And while Harden believes that Westbrook will help the Rockets get to the next level, he’s comfortable with the fact that the team’s success or failure will always be linked to his performance. “If we don’t win I’ll take all the blame for it,” he said. “It comes with it. That’s why we have to go out there and win. That’s why we work extremely hard in the offseason to bring players in and bring whatever is necessary in to give ourselves that chance to win. I know what’s at stake.” The Rockets open the season Oct. 24 (Oct. 25, PHL time) against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. CHINA RELATIONS The Rockets are eager to move on from the distraction caused by a since-deleted tweet by general manager Daryl Morey in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong that angered China and many fans. The Rockets were in Hawaii on Oct. 4 (Oct. 5, PHL time) to play a preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers on the first leg of a trip that included two games in Japan when Morey tweeted an image that said: “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.” His tweet was in reference to pro-democracy demonstrations in the semiautonomous Chinese territory that has been mired in escalating violence between protesters and law enforcement. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly rebuked his GM with a tweet saying that Morey does not speak for the team, but the damage was done. The Chinese Basketball Association, headed by former Rockets star Yao Ming, suspended its ties to the Rockets over the tweet. Events in China promoting a Lakers-Nets series were canceled, NBA media partner Tencent said it was evaluating its plans to cover the league and some Chinese corporations have suspended relationships with the NBA. HOUSE PARTY The Rockets signed G/F Danuel House to a three-year, $11.1 million contract this summer after the 26-year-old split time between Houston and the G-League last season. Coach Mike D’Antoni is glad he’ll have House in Houston all season this year after he averaged 9.4 points in 39 games last year. “Danuel House excites me,” D’Antoni said. “He should have a big year.” HEY OLD FRIEND Power forward Ryan Anderson is back with the Rockets after signing as a free agent just before the start of camp. The 12-year veteran spent two seasons in Houston before being traded before last season. HARDEN’S LEADERSHIP D’Antoni doesn’t believe Harden can do much more statistically this season after putting up gaudy numbers the past several seasons. But he likes the way he’s grown as a leader in the last couple of years and hopes to see him continue to evolve in that area this season. “His leadership is getting better every year,” D’Antoni said. “He understands the importance of being positive. That’s invaluable and it’s invaluable that we keep that attitude all year.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 16th, 2019

Harden-Westbrook duo ready to do something really special

By Michael C. Wright, NBA.com HOUSTON -- Well-dressed men in the Texas heat scurried, snatching keys and pointing directions to the visitors arriving, car after car. On the third floor, down the hall from a mezzanine overlooking a lobby, sparkling with custom Calcutta marble flooring, they all gathered in a quiet, dim room, just steps away from two Rolls-Royces bathing in the sun gushing through floor-to-ceiling glass. Here in Uptown, at Tilman Fertitta’s Post Oak Hotel -- a 38-floor, $350 million property housing a Rolls-Royce showroom and Bentley and Bugatti dealership, below a heliport -- the Houston Rockets' owner has turned the team’s annual media day into a posh, star-studded event. With good reason, too. Houston’s blockbuster July trade that sent Chris Paul off to the Oklahoma City Thunder for picks and pick swaps for Russell Westbrook reunites MVPs and former Thunder stars with James Harden already in the fold for a squad now at the forefront as favorites in a now suddenly wide-open Western Conference. “I think we are a better team,” Fertitta said. “It’s gonna be extremely exciting to have one of the greatest scorers of all time, and one of the most athletic people that has played the game. I know I’m really excited. I hope they don’t let me down.” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey thinks this all-star pairing “could be really special.” “It’s so exciting because James Harden is like the best half-court player I’ve ever seen, honestly,” Morey said. “Then, Russell is maybe the best transition player, one of the best of all time as well. If you put those things together, I think we have a chance. Now, you’ve got something really special.” Searching for same goal The reality is it’s been seven years since Westbrook and Harden last teamed with Oklahoma City in the 2012 NBA Finals, and while both have developed into MVP winners and perennial All-Stars, neither has made it back to The Finals. So, burning hotter than the pomp and glitz at the Post Oak Hotel this hot summer day is the question of whether this will all work for a pair of ball-dominant stars, accustomed to running their own respective shows. They’ve certainly got a believer in former Thunder teammate Kendrick Perkins. “They’ve played together in OKC. These two former MVPs still are in their primes. There’s no way that it’s not going to work,” Perkins told NBA.com. “Am I guaranteeing they’re going to win a championship? No, I’m not doing that. But I still believe this might be the most dynamic backcourt we’ve ever seen in NBA history. We probably haven’t seen a point guard and a shooting guard like this on the same team in forever. You can’t really name one going into the season that’s better than these two guys. I just think it’s going to work.” Now retired from the NBA, Perkins joined a 21-year-old Harden and a 22-year-old Westbrook in 2010-11, when he was traded there in the middle of the season from the Boston Celtics to OKC. Perkins describes the childhood friends and former Thunder teammates as “two guys that were still trying to find their identity” back then. Still, both were destined to reach the levels they currently occupy, he says. “When I first got there, those guys were working, man. They turned out to be some beasts, dog,” Perkins told NBA.com. “Gym rats, I’m telling you. It was unreal the amount of work those guys were putting in. Russ was always the heart and soul of the team. There was no debate about it to me. He gave the team swagger. With James, we just knew it was only in due time. People always say they should’ve kept that team together in OKC. But James wouldn’t have been able to be the player he is today if he hadn’t left. Plus, James was deserving of having his own team.” Now that he’s had it since joining the Rockets in 2012-13, Harden welcomes Westbrook, who like himself, began playing the game as a child at the Challengers Boys & Girls Club in South Central Los Angeles. Interestingly, Westbrook and Harden are the only players over the last five seasons to score more than 10,000 points. Westbrook nodded in agreement with the notion his new uniform provides somewhat of a new lease on life, after spending the first 11 years of his career in Oklahoma City. Harden, meanwhile, pointed out how his new teammate “doesn’t have to stress or worry about the pressure of carrying an entire organization,” because that responsibility now falls on them both. “I think it’s good for both of us because we understand the amount of energy and effort, time and commitment it takes to be able to do that for an entire season,” Westbrook said. “Now, being together on the same team, I think it’s important that we can lean on [one another], sacrifice, and not do as much to still have an impact on the game. I think [what] a lot of people don’t know is we have a friendship first outside of basketball. I think me and him communicate and understand each other. In the games, it’s going to be easy.” 'Sit back and watch the show' Perkins saw signs of maturity from Westbrook last season, when the guard at the detriment of his own stats, deferred to Paul George in crucial situations. But both Westbrook and Harden in 2018-19 ranked in the top 15 in usage rate. So, the phrase uttered most often at media day above the guests clutching cold drinks at the hotel pool was “figure it out.” Everyone, whether Fertitta, Morey, coach Mike D’Antoni or the players, seems confident in the duo’s ability to do so. Harden already said he’s willing to take a backseat to Westbrook. “If Russ has got it going, and Russ is having one of those games that we’ve all seen before, guess what I’m going to do?” Harden asked. “Sit back and watch the show, and vice versa. You can’t sit up here and say, ‘Oh, Russ is going to have the basketball for the first half, and I’m going to have the ball the second half.' No, things happen through the course of the game that you just flow with and go with.” Perkins believes that Harden welcomes the opportunity to defer to someone else, given the physical demands of his playing style. Harden ranked No. 3 last season in minutes per game (36.8), while Westbrook was fourth (36.0). “If you’ve watched James throughout the course of a game, the things he did, he had to do because nobody else was stepping up at the time. James wants somebody else to step up so that he can take a backseat sometimes,” Perkins told NBA.com. “If you watched Russ on the court last year, what a lot of people don’t realize is that he deferred to Paul George a lot. Russ took a backseat. You’ve got to understand, too, that he’s matured, man. He’s starting to show that he can be a better leader. Think about it. When you have kids, man, and you start having a family, sh--, your whole thought process changes. You know what I mean? I just see the maturity in Russ. To me, they have to just get it done. There’s no debate about it. Like, to me, the most pressure is on Mike D’Antoni.” Entering the final year of his contract after extension talks broke down over the summer, D’Antoni will proceed cautiously throughout the preseason implementing Westbrook (who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery). D’Antoni and Morey believe Westbrook, one of the game’s most lethal penetrators, will excel in D'Antoni's wide-open offense (which focuses on keeping shooters posted on the perimeter as guards drive in). Morey mentioned that under D’Antoni, guards have historically produced career years. “You look historically at players that have worked with Mike, guards especially, they always play better,” Morey said. “I think it’s just the way he sets up the team, sets up the offense. He finds ways to get people to do the things they do well more, and again, like he said, we’re not here to change anybody or do anything. Historically like pretty much every guard that’s worked with, Mike has had their career year. That’s gonna be a little tough with Russell, given that he’s had so many.” Wearing a salmon-hued polo shirt, D’Antoni discussed plans to stagger the minutes of Harden and Westbrook throughout the season. The expectation is Harden rests in the neighborhood of 13 minutes per game, while Westbrook sits 16 minutes. In his first preseason game -- a 134-129 loss to the Toronto Raptors in Tokyo -- Westbrook logged 20 minutes, finishing with 13 points, two rebounds and six assists. D’Antoni said the final five minutes of games are “the most important thing” for Westbrook to figure out as the team approaches the regular season. “They both want to do this. So, we’ll just sit down and work it out,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t have to tell someone they have to do this, or they have to do that. We’ll figure it out together. But just the vibe of being able to discuss things, the respect they have [for one another] will translate. We’re in a good spot. Right now, it’s great. All we’re trying right now is to win a title. That’s the only agenda that anybody has, and we’ve just got to figure it out.” When word first spread about Houston’s acquisition of Westbrook, opinions naturally flowed about how he’d fit alongside Harden. Westbrook is a career 30.8% 3-point shooter on a squad that has led the league in 3-point attempts four of the last five seasons. He’s also a ball-dominant, high-usage player just like Harden. Still, everyone, insists they won’t ask Westbrook to change his style of play. That puts the pressure squarely on D’Antoni to tweak what Houston does on the floor. “The system they’ve run, just shooting layups and shooting threes with no in-between game, you have to change that with Russell Westbrook, because one of his main things is his mid-range pull-up,” Perkins explained. “The pressure is on Mike D’Antoni. Does he have to change up his style of play? Yes, he will, in order for Russell Westbrook to be who he is. We all know that Russ is not a three-point shooter. Bottom line is they’ve got two of the top 10 players in the league now, if not top 15. "These guys get it done. Back in the day when they were in OKC, they were trying to find out who they were as players. Now, it’s a whole lot different. Now, they know who they are. They’ve done everything to accomplish all the individual accolades. They only thing they haven’t done is win a championship. It’s not the players. Houston has all the players.” In addition to the glitz, glamour and star power for a franchise starving to add more Larry O'Briens to its trophy case. Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 9th, 2019

New-look Clippers ready to level up beyond Best Team in L.A.

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com LOS ANGELES -- It was almost exactly a year ago when the Clippers welcomed the media on the same day the Lakers debuted LeBron James, and Patrick Beverley told the half-dozen or so reporters who must’ve made a wrong turn: “We’re the best team in L.A.” That bit of bravado went unnoticed and unheard, partly because of the Laker noise, partly because few -- if anyone -- bought it. Of course, Beverley was ultimately proven wise when the Clippers scrapped their way to 48 wins and a pair of first-round wins against the Warriors while LeBron and the Lakers almost literally collapsed from a kick to the groin. With a swell of attention now being paid to presumptive title favorites, who added Paul George and Kawhi Leonard while retaining much of the supporting cast, Beverley was given the chance Sunday (Monday, PHL time) to double down on his prophecy. He toned it down. “We’ll see,” he said. Yet his sinister grin was plain to see, and it reflected the swagger and internal expectations of a franchise not known for through-the-roof projections. Such is the new world order in Los Angeles, and perhaps the NBA, in 2019-20. These are unprecedented times for the Clippers, who’ve had winning teams before but none with this much title twinkle headed into the season. “We know what we’re capable of doing,” said Beverley, and so does everyone else. You don’t add the reigning NBA Finals MVP and another who finished third in the regular-season Kia MVP balloting without shaking up the establishment, even if you’ve never won a championship in franchise history. But there’s a long wait between now and next spring's playoffs, and a shorter one to see George on the floor. The 29-year-old swingman is still in the mending stage after off-season surgery on both shoulders. He said “I’m not sure” when he’ll be ready to play, even with opening night against the Lakers a little over three weeks away. George said he hasn’t had any complications or setbacks, but won’t engage in any contact work in camp and coach Doc Rivers said George will not appear in any games until he does. “There’s no problems,” George said. “I’m just going to do light work and drills for now.” The other issue as it relates to health is Leonard’s usage. Last year in Toronto, still smarting from a persistent quad injury that led to his stormy exit from the Spurs, Leonard didn’t play on consecutive nights during back-to-back games. Rivers said there are no such restrictions this season, or demands from the player, although the coach wants to reserve the right to monitor and change the approach if necessary. "Last year, I was going in with an injury that I was dealing with the year before, still was lingering, and we knew that I had to be healthy going throughout the season and making it to the playoffs,” Leonard said. "This time, I'm feeling good. I’m feeling way better than I was at the start of last season. There really was no plan laid out to discuss with everyone." Rivers also noted that the Clippers’ depth will allow for rest periods for George and Leonard; both players are joining a team that prospered without an All-Star last season, a team that will probably once again bring reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell off the bench. In due time, the Clippers will be complete, and that’s the most important takeaway from their first official gathering. The level of enthusiasm is “sky-high,” said Williams. Rivers has flexibility with Leonard and George, widely considered among the most elite two-way players in basketball. On offense, George and Leonard are top-10 league scorers (26.6 points last year for Leonard; 28.0 for George). Playing those two alongside Williams, who averaged 20 points last season in just 26 minutes off the bench, should cause matchup headaches. “We’ll force a lot of defenses to make a lot of hard decisions,” said Williams. And the options afforded to Rivers might even be richer on the other end. Rivers thinks pairing two newcomers plus Beverley -- who guarded Kevin Durant in the playoffs, while giving away seven inches -- can be “special.” Utilizing three players who can legitimately guard multiple positions, the Clippers’ defense could be epic, if not historic. George said: “It’s going to be scary … we’ve really got a chance to do something special on the defensive end. Watching Pat get out there and picking somebody up 94 feet, that's going to get me going. It's going to get Kawhi going. It's just going to become contagious on a nightly basis. I honestly think, for the first time, people are going to be excited to watch the defensive end as opposed to watching the offensive end.” The makings of a unique season, then, is on deck for the Clippers. It became realistic when Leonard, fresh off a title in Toronto, chose George and the Clippers over LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the Lakers — which, in itself, seems un-Clipper-like given the club’s former reputation and history, when superstars were once allergic to L.A.’s "other" basketball team. But these are new times. “We actually wanted to be teammates for a long time,” said George. “This was always in the works to happen at some point.” From the top of the organization to the bottom, everyone knows the potential and just the same, would rather allow a scenario to play itself out than speak it into existence. That’s why Beverley provided the most unexpected news of camp by playing it coy. But you knew where he stood. “Can’t wait to get started,” he said, echoing the thoughts of a locker room thinking big. Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 30th, 2019

Hall of Fame: Jack Sikma s reverse pivot clears lane to induction

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When Jack Sikma officially enters the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), one of his presenters will be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Which is a terrific example of game recognizing game. Or in this case, move recognizing move. Just as Abdul-Jabbar ranks as the NBA’s most prolific scorer and arguably its greatest player ever, so does his signature sky hook loom as the league’s most famous individual move. Most unstoppable, too, and for defenders, most deflating. Well, Sikma had a signature move of his own, one that helped elevate him from an NAIA program at Illinois Wesleyan to seven NBA All-Star appearances, a championship with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979 and now to the brink of his craft’s highest honor. It was the reverse pivot or inside pivot, which were its names when it was an arcane maneuver used by a small number of big men, taught mostly at the sport’s lower levels. Once Sikma learned it in 1974, brought it with him to the NBA in 1977 and helped the Sonics reach The Finals as a rookie and win the championship a year later, though, it swiftly became known as his: The Sikma move. “It was just an experiment after my freshmen season,” Sikma said Thursday (Friday, PHL time) at the Hall, after being introduced at a news conference as one of the Class of 2019’s 12 honorees. Others being inducted this weekend: coach Bill Fitch; NBA stars Bobby Jones, Sidney Moncrief and Paul Westphal; as well as WNBA legend Teresa Weatherspoon. Longtime Warriors player, coach and executive Al Attles was elected as a contributor. NBA center and current Sacramento GM Vlade Divac was chosen by the international committee. Being honored posthumously are: guard Carl Braun, a star in the 1950s; and Chuck Cooper, the first black player drafted by an NBA team (Boston, 1950). Finally, there are two college team entries: the Wayland Baptist women’s teams from 1948-82 and the Tennessee A&I teams from 1957-59. Divergent paths, compelling stories all. Including the one about the slender, blond kid from Kankakee, Illinois, whose offensive game needed a makeover. “My college coach [Dennie Bridges] and I sat down and he said, ‘Jack, you’ve just got to be more effective in the post if you want to take the next step.’ I was a good shooter – I’d learned the game as a wing and grew late, so I was comfortable facing the basket. “He had a friend who suggested, ‘Hey, down in southern Illinois there are some coaches who do an inside pivot with their guys to face the hoop. It might create a little space for Jack.’ I was really thin – I just wanted to get dislodged from the defender.” Basically, Sikma choreographically held a mirror to the post-up moves of traditional centers of the time. Holding the ball with his back to the basket, rather than turning on his pivot foot to the outside and attacking over his shoulder, he would spin to the inside. That motion would set up him a few feet back, facing the hoop, allowing for a simple hop and shot. And then there's this priceless Hubie Brown interview, in which Sikma teaches the move:  “A lot of coaches would pooh-pooh it because you’re catching the ball in one spot and then you’re stepping three feet farther away from the basket,” Sikma said. “That’s not the concept of big-men play, right? But I’ve got to hand it to Coach. He said, ‘Jack, I think this is it.’ And I said, ‘I’m not uncomfortable with the pivot.’” Sikma went from averaging 15.4 points as a freshman to 20.3 as a sophomore, with his shots increasing from 14.5 per game to 17.9. By his senior season, he averaged 27.0 points. As Sikma honed it in the NBA, at 6-foot-11, he would hold the ball above his head with a high release point that gave him the option of flipping up his shot or faking, then powering inside. In 14 seasons, by Sikma’s count, he played against 15 Hall of Fame centers, including Abdul-Jabbar. So he wanted every edge he could get. “You didn’t know which way he was going to go with it,” said fellow inductee Bobby Jones, a Sikma contemporary known for his defensive prowess. “Most of the time he would go back and shoot that shot, but sometimes he would go forward and draw the contact. I was just sitting there thinking, with all the other [inductees], if I ever blocked his shot. And I don’t think I ever did.” Jones, at 6-foot-9, matched up with him early in Sikma’s career (when Sikma was cast as a power forward for Seattle). Later, Jones had to decide how much help to give the teammate guarding Sikma. “The only thing I could ever have done was maybe come from behind and get him,” Jones said. “But he was a pretty good passer too. To ever leave your man that much, there’s a danger there.” Opponents weren’t the only ones made uncomfortable by Sikma’s unusual tactic. “I know I surprised some of the officials because I got called for traveling a few times,” Sikma said. “And I said, ‘Nope, I’m not traveling. I’ve got my foot up in the air, I plant it and then I pivot on it. By stepping out, that creates the space.’ “So even though it was a long time ago, they had film. They checked it out and they realized it wasn’t a walk. But I got called two or three times doing it.” Sikma laughed, recalling chatty Sonics teammate Fred Brown pleading his case for him to some of the referees. “I’d get called and Fred was in the ref’s face, ‘That’s his move! That’s his move! It’s not a travel,” Sikma said. “Fred had seen it enough in practice and figured it out.” Sikma had another facet to his game with which current NBA fans might be more familiar: he was a protypical “stretch 5.” Said Sidney Moncrief, another 2019 Hall newcomer who played for Milwaukee before and after Sikma was traded there for his final five seasons: “People don’t remember this about Jack Sikma, but Don Nelson was the first coach who started emphasizing 3-point shots for big men. He put Jack on the perimeter to take the big men out of the lane so we could make plays.” Not unlike current Bucks center Brook Lopez, Sikma underwent a late-career transformation as a deep threat. In his first 11 seasons, Sikma took 68 3-pointers and made seven (10.3 percent). During his final three seasons – from age 33 to 35 – Sikma shot 550 times from behind the arc and made 196 (35.6 percent). Still, it’s the quick inside step about 10 feet from the hoop that puts Sikma in a select subset of Hall of Famers already enshrined and those who will be. Call it the Alcove of Famous Moves. Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake,” Kevin McHale’s up-and-under, George Gervin’s finger roll, Dominique Wilkins’ double-pump reverse, Allen Iverson’s crossover, Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged fadeaway and Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook will be joined, in time, by James Harden’s step-back 3-pointer, Manu Ginobili’s Euro-step, LeBron James’ chase-down block and Steph Curry’s long range pull-up 3. Each became or has become a signature move. But that only matters if the idea works. “They made it look good, so it was effective,” Sikma said. “If I tried to do the sky hook, if I tried to do the up-and-under, you’d probably think, ‘Meh, that’s not such a good move.’ A lot of it has to do with how effective a person is doing it.” The 2019 Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield’s Symphony Hall will air on NBA TV Friday (Saturday, PHL time) beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 6th, 2019

Rookie Survey: Zion Williamson, Ja Morant early favorites to shine in 2019-20

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com Last season was the first time in 34 years (since 1984-85) that the top five picks of the previous Draft went on to be the five players who comprised the All-Rookie First Team. One year later, the teams that had those top five picks should feel pretty good about their decisions. Time will tell about the five teams that had the top five picks in this year's Draft. But it's clear that fellow rookies approve of the guys selected in the top two. In this year's NBA.com Rookie Survey, 62 percent of responders picked the New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson or the Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant to win the Kia Rookie of the Year award. Williamson made Rookie Survey history with how many votes he got in the "Most athletic" question, while Morant was a clear favorite for "Best playmaker." The two top picks received the most total votes on the survey, but it was No. 7 pick Coby White (of the Chicago Bulls) and No. 33 pick Carsen Edwards (Boston Celtics) who each received votes on a survey-high five questions. In total, 38 different rookies received votes on at least one of the seven questions about their class, a deep one if these guys got it right. For the 11th time in the last 13 years, NBA.com sat down with the rookie class at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot. In addition to the seven questions about their fellow rookies, this year's group (of 42) answered a few about the current player they most admire and what they're expecting as they make the jump to the NBA. * * * NOTE: Players were asked not to vote for themselves, college teammates or NBA teammates. (Some still did, and those votes were discounted.) * * * Who will be the 2019-20 Kia Rookie of the Year? 1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 35% 2. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 27% 3. R.J. Barrett, New York -- 5%     Cam Reddish, Atlanta -- 5% Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans; Goga Bitadze, Indiana; Brandon Clarke, Memphis; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Kyle Guy, Sacramento; Rui Hachimura, Washington; Romeo Langford, Boston; Coby White, Chicago; Grant Williams, Boston Last year: DeAndre Ayton and Collin Sexton -- 18% Worth noting: Williamson feels like a strong pick, but in the previous 10 years of the survey, the top vote-getter has gone on to win the Kia Rookie of the Year award just once. That was in 2007 (the first year of the survey), when Kevin Durant received 54 percent of the vote. Williamson is the first player in the last five years to receive at least one third of the vote, and he might have had more if some of his fellow rookies (those that voted for the six guys selected outside the Lottery) had studied their history. Of the 67 Rookie of the Year winners (that weren't territorial picks in the 1950s and early '60s), 61 (or 91 percent) were selected in the top 10 of the Draft, and 52 (or 78 percent) were selected in the top five. Which rookie will have the best career? 1. Cam Reddish, Atlanta -- 19% 2. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 16% 3. De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta -- 11% 4. R.J. Barrett, New York -- 5%     Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans -- 5%     Coby White, Chicago -- 5%     Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 5% Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans; Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Rui Hachimura, Washington; Keldon Johnson, San Antonio; Mfiondu Kabengele, LA Clippers; Romeo Langford, Boston; Cody Martin, Charlotte; Eric Paschall, Golden State; Tremont Waters, Boston; Dylan Windler, Cleveland Last year: Wendell Carter Jr. -- 13% Worth noting: This is the sixth straight year that a Duke player has earned (or tied for) the most votes on this question, with Reddish joining Jabari Parker (2014), Jahlil Okafor (2015), Brandon Ingram (2016), Jayson Tatum (2017) and Carter. The seven players who received multiple votes were all selected in the top 10, though there were another eight votes for players selected outside the Lottery. Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft? 1. Bol Bol (44), Denver -- 19%     Kevin Porter Jr. (30), Cleveland -- 19% 3. Carsen Edwards (33), Boston -- 5%     Nassir Little (25), Portland -- 5%     Isaiah Roby (45), Dallas -- 5%     Coby White (7), Chicago -- 5%     Grant Williams (22), Boston -- 5% Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17), New Orleans; Brandon Clarke (21), Memphis; Jaxson Hayes (8), New Orleans; Talen Horton-Tucker (46), L.A. Lakers; Keldon Johnson (29), San Antonio; Mfiondu Kabengele (27), LA Clippers; Romeo Langford (14), Boston; Jordan Poole (28), Golden State; Cam Reddish (10), Atlanta; Luka Samanic (19), San Antonio; Admiral Schofield (42), Washington; Quinndary Weatherspoon (49), San Antonio; Dylan Windler (26), Cleveland Last year: Keita Bates-Diop -- 13% Worth noting: As it often does, this question got the biggest range of answers, including each of the last six picks of the first round. But Bol and Porter, two of the six players from the Pac-12 Conference, clearly stood out among the group. Draymond Green is the only one of the previous 16 players to earn (or tie for) the most votes on this question (which was worded "Which rookie is being most overlooked" through 2014) that has ever been an All-Star, though Donovan Mitchell is certainly a potential All-Star in the years to come. Which rookie is the most athletic? 1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans -- 87% 2. Brandon Clarke, Memphis -- 8% Others receiving votes: Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans; Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland Last year: Zhaire Smith -- 24% Worth noting: The 87 percent that Williamson earned here is the greatest percentage of the vote that any player has earned on any question in the history of the Rookie Survey, surpassing the 79 percent that Stephen Curry got for "Best Shooter" in 2009. That's good company. Which rookie is the best shooter? 1. Tyler Herro, Miami -- 33% 2. Kyle Guy, Sacramento -- 29% 3. Cameron Johnson, Phoenix -- 13% 4. Ty Jerome, Phoenix -- 8% 5. Jordan Poole, Golden State -- 4% Others receiving votes: Ignas Brazdeikis, New York; Carsen Edwards, Boston; Darius Garland, Cleveland; Zion Williamson, New Orleans; Dylan Windler, Cleveland Last year: Trae Young -- 47% Worth noting: Guy made twice as many 3-pointers (120 at a 43-percent clip) for Virginia last season than Herro did in his one season for Kentucky (60 at 36 percent). Johnson (47 percent) shot better than both of them and the Suns could benefit from having two of the top four players here. Phoenix ranked 29th or 30th in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint in each of the last three seasons. Which rookie is the best defender? 1. Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia -- 37% 2. De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta -- 29% 3. Brandon Clarke, Memphis -- 8%     Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans -- 8%     Nassir Little, Portland -- 8% Others receiving votes: Bol Bol, Denver; Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Bruno Fernando, Atlanta; Coby White, Chicago Last year: Jevon Carter -- 29% Worth noting: This is the only question for which Thybulle received any votes, but he received the greatest percentage of the vote on this question since Victor Oladipo (63% in 2013). While Thybulle is joining a team with a handful of guys that have already proven to be impact defenders, Hunter's defense is more critical to the success of the Hawks, who ranked 28th on that end of the floor last season. Which rookie is the best playmaker? 1. Ja Morant, Memphis -- 40% 2. Darius Garland, Cleveland -- 15% 3. Ty Jerome, Phoenix -- 10%     Coby White, Chicago -- 10% 5. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, New Orleans -- 8% 6. Kevin Porter Jr., Cleveland -- 6%     Tremont Waters, Boston -- 6% Others receiving votes: Carsen Edwards, Boston; Kyle Guy, Sacramento Last year: Trae Young -- 35% Worth noting: Morant led the nation in assists by a pretty wide margin. In Memphis, the latest winner on this question is replacing the first; Mike Conley received 45 percent of the vote for best playmaker in the initial, 2007 survey. The Grizzlies would surely love to see Morant stick around as long as Conley did. Winning this category as a Laker -- as Lonzo Ball and D'Angelo Russell both once did -- apparently means that you're going to be traded less than two years after doing so. What will be the biggest adjustment for you, playing in the NBA? 1. Speed or pace of the game -- 40% 2. Physicality (athleticism, size and strength of opponents) -- 21%     Schedule/Length of season -- 21% 4. Lifestyle/Time management -- 12% Also receiving votes: Longer 3-point distance, Playing NBA defense Last year: Speed or pace of the game -- 31% Worth noting: According to the great Ken Pomeroy, the average pace in NCAA Division I was just 69.0 possessions per 40 minutes last season. When adjusted for a 48-minute game (82.8), that would be almost 18 possessions per 48 slower than the average NBA pace (100.7 per 48). So yeah, speed of the game should be an adjustment. What is the most important skill you need to develop? 1. Shooting -- 32% 2. Ball-handling -- 16% 3. Passing -- 9% 4. Strength -- 7% 5. Decision-making -- 5%     Defense -- 5%     Everything -- 5%     Money management -- 5% Also receiving votes: Leadership, Mindset, Patience, Playmaking, Playing off the ball, Post skills, Time management Last year: Ball-handling and shooting -- 19% Worth noting: Self-improvement is both a physical and mental thing. There are five votes in here for the mental aspects of improvement (even more if you consider "passing" and/or "defense" to be more of a mindset than anything else), and a few more for managing things (time and money) off the court. Who is your favorite player in the league? 1. LeBron James, L.A. Lakers -- 38% 2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn -- 20% 3. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers -- 8%     Damian Lillard, Portland -- 8% 5. Devin Booker, Phoenix -- 5%     James Harden, Houston -- 5% Others receiving votes: Jamal Crawford; Kevin Garnett; Paul George, LA Clippers; C.J. McCollum, Portland; Steve Nash; Pascal Siakam, Toronto; Russell Westbrook, Houston Last year: LeBron James -- 29% Worth noting: In the 10-year history of this question, only three players have been the top vote-getter. James, named the top guy for the fourth time, separates himself from Durant (3) and Kobe Bryant (3). Interestingly, Bryant wasn't one of the two retired guys -- Garnett and Nash, this time -- to get votes. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 20th, 2019

Lots of questions, few answers as Team USA opens training camp

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com LAS VEGAS -- The U.S. Men's Senior National Team tipped off training camp on Monday. This was the start of a six-week process that they hope ends with the gold medal game of the FIBA World Cup in Beijing on Sept. 15. This week includes four days of practice, followed by an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Before we get into the next six weeks, let's review how we got to Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) with a much different pool of players than national team managing director Jerry Colangelo originally anticipated. The originals - Last year, there were 35 players named to the 2018-20 USA roster for a 2018 minicamp, this year's World Cup and next year's Olympics. - Of those 35, only 14 were on the 20-man training camp roster for the World Cup when it was announced on June 10. - Between June 10 and the start of camp on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), nine of those 14 backed out. - The five remaining are Harrison Barnes, Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton, Myles Turner and Kemba Walker. The additions - As part of the 20-player training camp announcement on June 10, six players were added to the 14 from the original 35-player list. - Since then, one of those six - Paul Millsap - backed out. - Six more players were added on July 25. - In the 10 days since then, two of those six - Montrezl Harrell and Julius Randle - backed out. - Last week, Bam Adebayo was added to the roster. - Before camp opened, De'Aaron Fox and Joe Harris were (sort of) promoted from the Select Team to the Senior Team. The absences Going back to who's not here: There are 33 players - 30 from the 2018-20 roster and three that signed up and backed out this year - who have decided not to play. That's almost three full rosters of American players, and it doesn't include any guys that were offered a spot, but declined before being named to the roster. J.J. Redick is a player that reportedly declined an invite. They can't all be lumped into one group of guys who just don't want to make the six-week commitment. Some have family business to tend to. But one reason cited by multiple players who have backed out is preparing for next season. And in that regard, the World Cup schedule, along with the travel, is not ideal. The gold medal game is Sept. 15. So players will be returning from China (on a flight of 15 hours or so) on Sept. 16. The start of NBA training camps has been pushed back one week this year, but national team players will have less than two weeks between their return and the opening of camps. Players on the Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors will have even less than that, along with a trip back to Asia for early-October exhibition games in Japan or China. Colangelo also cited the fact that the World Cup and Olympics are in back-to-back years (with an NBA season in between), instead of two years apart like they were in the past. And while this year's World Cup is toward the end of the summer, next year's Olympics start July 25, with training camp probably opening not long after The NBA Finals. (If it were the same six-week period from the start of camp to the gold medal game as it is this year, next year's camp would actually open on June 29). 17 players for 12 spots Fox and Harris aren't on the official Senior Team roster, but Colangelo said Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) that they have a chance of making the final 12-man roster for the World Cup. So that makes 17 players for 12 spots. By position, they are: PG: De'Aaron Fox, Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker SG: Joe Harris, Donovan Mitchell, Marcus Smart SF: Jaylen Brown, Kyle Kuzma, Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum PF: Harrison Barnes, P.J. Tucker, Thaddeus Young C: Bam Adebayo, Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee, Myles Turner There's obviously some flexibility in there. Two point guards could play together, Mitchell could play some point guard, and all of the small forwards could play some at the four. Lowry, who had surgery on his left thumb just a few weeks ago, isn't participating in camp this week. He's hoping to be cleared to practice when the team reconvenes in Los Angeles from Aug. 13-16 for three more days of practice and an exhibition game against Spain. But right now, it's not guaranteed that he'll be able to play. With or without him, it's still a very talented group. "Thank goodness we're blessed with the depth of talent we have in this country," Colangelo said. "You find guys that want to play and you go with them." Cutting down the list from 17 to 12 won't be easy. Point guard, where Lowry has the experience (see below) and Walker is the star, may be the only position where there's a clear hierarchy. At each of the other positions, different players bring different skill sets, but it's not clear that Player A is better than Player B, who is better than Player C. The World Cup doesn't require final rosters until the day before the tournament starts (it's earlier for the Olympics), so the final decisions don't have to be made before the team flies from L.A. to Australia for three more exhibition games. "We're flexible," Colangelo said. "If we have a tough decision to make, we'll bring an extra guy or two with us." The experience Of the 17 players in camp, only three have played for the United States in an international competition on the senior level. Plumlee was on the 2014 World Cup team, and both Lowry and Barnes were on the 2016 Olympic team. And neither Plumlee (11th on the '14 team in total minutes) nor Barnes (last on the '16 team in total minutes) played integral roles. The 2010 World Cup team was similarly inexperienced - Chauncey Billups and Tyson Chandler played on the 2007 FIBA Americas team - but had four future MVPs: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. The talent That 2010 team had seven players who had been selected in the top five in the NBA Draft. Since 1992, there have been 15 U.S. National Teams comprised of NBA players. And those 15 teams have had an average of seven top-five picks on them, with *no fewer than four. * The two teams with only four top-five picks: The 2002 team that finished sixth at the World Championship and the 2016 Olympic team that won gold in Rio. This 17-man group includes only three top-five picks: Brown (No. 3 in 2016), Fox (No. 5 in 2017) and Tatum (No. 3 pick in 2017). And it would be a surprise if Fox makes the final roster. Since 1992, the only one of those 15 U.S. teams that didn't have a No. 1 pick on it was the 2000 Olympic team, which had nine players who were selected second (4), third (1), or fifth (4). This 17-man roster includes just one player who has made an all-NBA team in the last three years. That's Walker, who was a Third Team selection this year. The opportunity With the ball in his hands Walker could be the star of this team. And he sees the roster attrition as an opportunity. "I think a lot of us are happy those guys pulled out," Walker said Monday. "This is our chance, our chance to get on the big stage and showcase our talent. It's a chance for us to do something new. It'll be a new-look team. Everybody's kind of doubting us, but I think we're hungry." When he was asked why he remained committed, Walker's explanation was pretty simple. "I love basketball," he said. "I love to play. What better opportunity can you have than to play for your country? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of us." A monstrous sacrifice Lopez has nominated himself as the player that has made the biggest sacrifice to be in Vegas, because if he wasn't, he'd be in the Scottish Highlands with the rest of his family. "I could be looking for Nessy!" Lopez said. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 6th, 2019

Player Movement: What teams have gained, lost this offseason

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com There's still a lot of work to be done before rosters are set for the 2019-20 season. Some teams (Charlotte, Utah) still have roster spots to fill. Other teams (Memphis, Washington) still have some roster trimming to do. There are about 25 two-way-contract slots that can be filled around the league. And it's certainly possible that players like Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala will be traded a second time before the end of the summer. But it's already been a season of change. At the start of training camp last September, 15 of the league's 30 teams rostered players who played at least 75 percent of the team's minutes in the previous season (2017-18). Right now -- midway through July -- only four teams are set to bring back players who played at least 75 percent of last season's minutes. Continuity Not every team has made big changes. The Denver Nuggets are set to return at least 12 of the 18 guys that played for them last season (the status of two-way, restricted free agent Brandon Goodwin is still in the air), along with Michael Porter Jr., who was with the team all season. The only players that have left the Nuggets -- Tyler Lydon, Trey Lyles and Isaiah Thomas -- played a total of eight minutes in the playoffs. Over the last three years, there has been a correlation between summer continuity and win increase the following season. But the correlation has been small. During that span, 33 teams have brought at least 75 percent of the previous season's minutes back, and only 15 of those 33 increased their win total. The highest individual return percentage of the stretch belonged to last season's Miami Heat, who brought back 97 percent of their minutes from 2017-18 ... and proceeded to win five fewer games. This summer, the two biggest winners in free agency -- the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers -- rank 24th and 26th, respectively, by this measure (as of Wednesday morning). And while the Nuggets have a young core that can improve on its second-place finish in the West, the Orlando Magic are bringing back an ensemble that won just 42 games in the Eastern Conference, and the San Antonio Spurs have an older group that was ousted by Denver in the first round, albeit in seven games. Gained and lost math Going forward, we'll be talking about totals gained or lost this summer. These were accumulated by non-rookies for any team last season. For example, in calculating the minutes that Indiana lost (and Milwaukee gained) with Wesley Matthews' departure, we're using all 2,091 minutes that Matthews played for Dallas and Indiana last season. That way, it's a more realistic measure of total production coming in and going out. In that regard, most teams have lost more '18-19 minutes than they've gained. In total, there are more than 230 players who were on rosters (with two-way contracts included) at the end of the season and are either on a new team (via free agency or trades) or remain unsigned. More than half of those players (about 120) have been replaced by other non-rookies. About 70 more have been replaced by rookies (including those on two-way contracts). As an example, here's the roster math for the Golden State Warriors: - LOST 11 non-rookies off their end-of-season roster - GAINED six non-rookies - ADDED three rookies - STILL HAVE one main roster spot and one two-way spot they can fill Minutes gained and lost The Warriors are one of 22 teams that have lost a group of players who played more minutes last season than the group of players that they've added. There are a few teams that have added a lot more '18-19 minutes to their roster. That group is led by the New York Knicks, who have added almost 12,000 '18-19 minutes while seeing almost 9,000 minutes exit. The Knicks have lost four guys - Mario Hezonja, DeAndre Jordan, Emmanuel Mudiay and Noah Vonleh - who played at least 1,000 minutes. They added seven, and all seven started at least 28 games last season. Of course, how many of those seven are difference makers is up for debate, as is the idea of whether the Knicks should have used at least some of their cap space to take on bad contracts -- often spiced up with future picks -- from other teams. The Nets lost as many players (6) who played at least 1,000 minutes last season as they gained. But they added four of the 31 2,000-minute players to have changed teams this summer, most notably in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Utah (3) is the only other team with more than two additions that played at least 2,000 minutes last season. The eight guys that Brooklyn brought in started a total of 363 games in '18-19, while the nine guys they lost started just 179. That's the biggest increase, with New York (+100) and Utah (+84) also seeing differentials of more than 82 games. The Sacramento Kings lost two guys that played at least 1,000 minutes last season, and one of those guys -- Alec Burks -- played only 127 minutes for the Kings. They added four 1,000-minute players, including two - Trevor Ariza and Cory Joseph -- that played more than 2,000 minutes last season. As noted above, the Nuggets lead the league in continuity, bringing back all 10 guys that played more than 1,120 minutes for them last season. But they've also added Jerami Grant, who played 2,612 minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Though they've added more players (11, including four rookies) than they've lost (nine) and need to trim their roster between now and opening night, the Washington Wizards are set to see the biggest discrepancy in regard to '18-19 minutes. They've lost more than 11,000 (with Trevor Ariza, Jeff Green and Tomas Satoransky accounting for more than half of that total) and added less than 5,000. The group of players that the Wizards lost also started 208 more '18-19 games than the players added -- the biggest discrepancy in that regard. The Charlotte Hornets not only lost more than 1,000 '18-19 minutes in their Kemba Walker-Terry Rozier swap, they also lost three other guys - Jeremy Lamb, Shelvin Mack and Tony Parker - who played more than 1,000 minutes last season. There's a general consensus that the Indiana Pacers are in the "winners" category this summer, adding Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren. But they also lost five guys (four of their five playoff starters plus Cory Joseph) to have played at least 2,000 minutes last season. The only other teams who lost more than two 2,000-minute players were the the Clippers (3), Oklahoma City Thunder (3) and Wizards (3). Still available Most '18-19 minutes among still-available free agents... - Justin Holiday - 2,607 - Iman Shumpert - 1,481 - Wayne Selden - 1,439 - Jeremy Lin - 1,436 - Shaquille Harrison - 1,430 In regard to minutes played last season, the top 18 available free agents are all perimeter players (unless you want to count Jonas Jerebko as an interior guy). Among available non-perimeter players, Dante Cunningham (928), Cheick Diallo (896) and Zaza Pachulia (878) are the guys who played the most minutes last season. It's all about shooting Putting the ball in the basket is the most important thing in the NBA, and every team is always on the hunt for more shooting. But in regard to '18-19 3-pointers, half of the league (15 teams) has lost more than it's gained. There are a few teams to have seen big increases, however. The Knicks added Reggie Bullock (148-for-393, 37.7 percent), Marcus Morris (146-for-389, 37.5 percent) and Wayne Ellington (138-for-372, 37.1 percent), though creating open shots for those guys might be an issue. None of the six players that the Kings have lost made more than 61 3-pointers last season. Ariza (145) is the big gain in that regard, but they also added Dewayne Dedmon, a big man who shot 38 percent on 217 attempts from beyond the arc. On the other end of the spectrum, it's the Hornets that lost the most 3s, with Walker having ranked fifth in the league in total makes. The Atlanta Hawks ranked fourth in the percentage of their shots that were 3-pointers, but traded Taurean Prince (39 percent on 315 attempts), lost Dedmon, haven't re-signed Vince Carter (39 percent on 316 attempts) and swapped Kent Bazemore (32 percent; 300 attempts) for Evan Turner (21 percent; 52 attempts). The Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, haven't really replaced two of the four guys who made more than 100 threes for them last season. Still available Most '18-19 3-pointers among still-available free agents... - Justin Holiday - 162-for-465 (34.8 percent) - Kyle Korver - 138-for-348 (39.7 percent) - Vince Carter - 123-for-316 (38.9 percent) - Iman Shumpert - 95-for-273 (34.8 percent) - Lance Stephenson - 73-for-197 (37.1 percent) J.R. Smith, waived by the Cavs on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), made 143 threes (shooting 37.5 percent) in 2017-18, but played just 11 games last season. More notes - Eastern Conference - The Boston Celtics are one of three teams (Atlanta and Washington are the others) with a discrepancy of at least 300 between the steals + blocks registered by the non-rookies they've lost (503) and those registered by the non-rookies they've added (194). Swapping Al Horford (145 steals + blocks in 1,973 minutes) for Enes Kanter (58 in 1,639 minutes) obviously hurts. - The Chicago Bulls have seen the second biggest increase in 3-point percentage between the non-rookies they've added (36.9 percent) and the non-rookies they've lost (30.3 percent). Tomas Satoransky (39.5 percent on 162 attempts) was the big add in that regard. - The Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team that hasn't added a single player (via free agency or trade) that played last season, though they still have to add at least one player to their main roster. The only players they've added are the three guys they selected in the first round of the Draft and another rookie (Dean Wade) on a two-way contract. - The Detroit Pistons have had eight non-rookies leave (five have found new NBA teams, three haven't been re-signed) and have added only four. But the four they've added -- Tim Frazier, Markieff Morris, Derrick Rose and Tony Snell -- started the same number of games (60) and played just 11 more minutes in '18-19 as the eight that have left. They did add more scoring, with the four new guys having registered 436 more points than the eight guys on their way out. - As noted above, the Miami Heat led the league in continuity last summer, bringing back 97 percent of their minutes from '17-18. This year, with the retirement of Dwyane Wade and trades that sent Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside out, they're in the middle of the pack. In regard to out vs. in (Jimmy Butler and Meyers Leonard), they've lost total production, but have improved in regard to shooting and free throw rate. Only Denver, Brooklyn and Dallas have seen bigger increases in true shooting percentage from the non-rookies they've lost to the non-rookies they've added. - With the departure of Malcolm Brogdon, the Milwaukee Bucks lost some playmaking. Only the Magic (who didn't lose anybody from their playoff rotation) saw a bigger drop in in assist-turnover ratio from the non-rookies they lost (2.47) to the non-rookies they've gained (1.33). Tony Snell (traded to Detroit) had the fifth lowest turnover ratio (4.9 per 100 possessions) among 299 players that averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more last season. - The Orlando Magic rank second in continuity, one of two teams (Dallas is the other) with nobody on their end-of-season roster having signed with (or been traded to) another team. But they've added one rotation piece by signing Al-Farouq Aminu, who represents the biggest jump in '18-19 rebounds between the non-rookies a team has added (610) and those they've lost or remain unsigned (195). The Magic were already a good rebounding team, ranking 11th in total rebounding percentage and third in defensive rebounding percentage last season. - The Philadelphia 76ers have seen the biggest discrepancy in '18-19 games played between the players they've lost (478) and the players they've added (223), though most of those lost games came from guys who weren't in their playoff rotation. More notes - Western Conference - The Dallas Mavericks have seen the second-biggest jump in effective field goal percentage (lower than only that of Denver) between the players they added (54.4 percent) and the players they've lost (47.3 percent) this summer. Swapping Trey Burke (48.2 percent) for Seth Curry (57.7 percent) goes a long way in that regard. The Mavs are also one of two teams (Orlando is the other) with nobody on their end-of-season roster having signed with (or been traded to) another team. - It remains to be seen how well James Harden and Russell Westbrook fit together and how much the Westbrook-for-Chris Paul swap hurts the Houston Rockets' defense. But we can say for certain that the Rockets got better in the rebounding department. - After ranking 28th in rebounding percentage (and 29th in defensive rebounding percentage) last season, they swapped Paul (who grabbed 7.0 percent of available boards while he was on the floor) for Westbrook (14.1 percent - highest among guards) and also added Tyson Chandler, who had a higher rebounding percentage (15.4 percent) than Nene (10.5 percent). - Good news for the team that ranked 29th in 3-point percentage last season: The non-rookies the Los Angeles Lakers have lost attempted 75 more 3-pointers than those they've gained. But the non-rookies they've gained made 34 more 3s than those they've lost. Among players that attempted at least 200 3-pointers last season and changed teams this season, Danny Green (45.5 percent) ranked first in 3-point percentage, while Quinn Cook (40.5 percent) ranked seventh. - The Memphis Grizzlies had a pretty motley rotation after making multiple trades at the deadline in February. And now they've seen the biggest roster more than any other team this summer, with 11 non-rookies leaving and nine coming in. They currently have guys that played for the Hawks, Warriors, Wolves, Pelicans, Suns, Raptors, Jazz and Wizards last season. - The six non-rookies that the Minnesota Timberwolves have added -- Jordan Bell, Treveon Graham, Jake Layman, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh and Tyrone Wallance -- averaged just 6.3 points per game last season. That's the lowest mark for players added among the 29 teams that have added at least one non-rookie this summer. - In regard to vets, the New Orleans Pelicans have swapped interior players for perimeter players. The (five) non-rookies that they've added had 360 fewer '18-19 field goals, but 127 more 3-pointers than the (10) non-rookies that they've lost. Chicago is the other team with a loss in '18-19 field goals (-38) and a gain in '18-19 3-pointers (+47). - The Oklahoma City Thunder have seen the most '18-19 points walk out the door, with the six guys they've lost having scored 5,619 points last season. One thing they definitely gained in the Westbrook-Paul trade (if they keep Paul) was mid-range shooting. Paul has shot 48.9 percent from mid-range the last five seasons, the second best mark (behind only that of Kevin Durant) among 55 players with at least 1,000 mid-range attempts over that time. Westbrook (37.5 percent) ranks 52nd among the 55. - The 10 non-rookies that have left the Phoenix Suns (five that have found new NBA teams and five that haven't) racked up a cumulative plus-minus of minus-1,709 last season. None of the 10 had a positive plus-minus. The five non-rookies that they've added -- Aron Baynes, Jevon Carter, Frank Kaminsky, Ricky Rubio and Dario Saric -- had a cumulative plus-minus of plus-257. That's the league's biggest differential between players in vs. players out. - The Portland Trail Blazers improved their shooting by swapping Turner for Bazemore and Aminu (34.3 percent on 280 3-point attempts) for Anthony Tolliver (37.7 percent on 215), but are one of four teams - Brooklyn, Indiana and the Lakers are the others - that have lost six players who played at least 1,000 minutes in '18-19. They've added four. - As noted above, the San Antonio Spurs are near the top of the league in regard to continuity. But they've seen the biggest increase in free throw rate (FTA/FGA) between the non-rookies that they've gained (0.335) and the players they've lost (0.181). The pair of vets that they've added (having ranked 24th in free throw rate last season) includes DeMarre Carroll (0.421), who ranked eighth in free throw rate among non-bigs with at least 500 field goal attempts last season. - The Utah Jazz rank 13th in the percentage of '18-19 minutes they're set to bring back, but are one of five teams that have added at least 9,000 '18-19 minutes and lost at least 9,000 '18-19 minutes (when we include unsigned free agents). They parted ways with four of the eight guys that played at least 1,000 minutes for them last season, but all five of their additions - Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley Jr., Ed Davis, Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay - played at least 1,400 minutes. John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 18th, 2019

Summer League winds down, and now, maybe, some NBA rest

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press They'll hand out T-shirts to the Summer League winners following the championship game between Memphis and Minnesota in Las Vegas on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), and then things will finally slow down a bit in the NBA. Maybe. And probably not for long. It's been a hectic month since Toronto won the NBA championship and the so-called offseason commenced. Already this summer, 18 current and former All-Stars have changed franchises, and that number will rise to 19 if Vince Carter finds a new home for his final season. Recent NBA Finals MVPs Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala all were among those on the move. And another three past finals MVPs — Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker — all retired. So when next season begins, very little will look the same. "I think there's going to be a lot of parity," Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. "That's my gut." NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expected this summer to be loaded with player movement, and wasn't complaining about so many big names — Durant, Leonard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Jimmy Butler and many more — needing to file change-of-address cards. "At the end of the day, it's positive for the league," Silver said. "I will say, though, I'm mindful of this notion of balance of power, and I think it applies in many different ways. An appropriate balance of power between the teams and the players ... at the end of the day, you want to make sure you have a league where every team is in a position to compete." There were some clear winners in free agency: Brooklyn (who got Durant and Irving), the Los Angeles Clippers (who got George and Leonard) and the Los Angeles Lakers (who got Davis) were among them. It could be argued that the Oklahoma City Thunder won as well — no, they won't be as good this season as they were this past season after trading George and Westbrook, but general manager Sam Presti has enough draft picks now to enjoy flexibility for years. The losers are clear as well: Toronto lost Leonard and Danny Green and Golden State lost Durant, so last season's finalists certainly aren't favorites to be this season's finalists. It's also easy to say that New York lost after coming up empty on the big-name free agents, but the Knicks got plenty of good players on deals that ensure the team will have money again next summer. A lookahead at what's coming, and some notes on what's gone down: SO NOW WHAT? Any NBA withdrawal will really only last about three weeks, until roughly three dozen players return to Las Vegas for USA Basketball's training camp leading up to the FIBA World Cup in China that starts on Aug. 31. San Antonio's Gregg Popovich is coaching the Americans, assisted by Golden State's Steve Kerr, Atlanta's Lloyd Pearce and Villanova's Jay Wright. Zion Williamson, knee permitting, may take part in camp as one of the young players brought in to help the more-established pros get ready. If Williamson impresses, he may get a shot at joining the varsity club. Also, this season's NBA schedule is likely to come around the second week of August, if recent years are any indicator. WHO'S LEFT? Plenty of free agents remain unsigned, and that'll still be the case even in September as training camps get ready to open. It's still hard to see the Thunder keeping Paul, acquired in the Westbrook trade to Houston, so expect at least one more blockbuster trade before too long. Or can a player who is owed $121 million over the next three seasons be bought out? Stay tuned. Carter wants to come back for a 22nd NBA season, which would be a league record. If he gets into a game after Jan. 1, he'll also become the first NBA player to appear in four different decades. Jamal Crawford remains out there as well, and contenders should be calling him. LOADED WEST Philadelphia, Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana and Miami all likely got better in the East. Milwaukee kept most of its team that won an NBA-best 60 games. The East will be good. The West might be bloody. The Clippers, the Lakers, Houston, Golden State, Denver, Utah, Portland and San Antonio could end up as the eight playoff teams in the Western Conference. It's plausible; they're probably the most realistic eight picks right now. But at least four of those teams — most of them with superstar duos that are all the rage now — won't be in the second round of next season's playoffs. LONGEVITY AWARD For now, Golden State's Stephen Curry is the longest-tenured player under contract to one team. He's entering his 11th season with the Warriors. With Nowitzki (21 seasons with Dallas) retired, Mike Conley (12 seasons with Memphis) traded to Utah and Westbrook (11 seasons with Oklahoma City) traded to Houston, no current player has had a longer uninterrupted run with one team than Curry. But if Udonis Haslem re-signs with Miami, it'll be his 17th season with the Heat. THE NUMBERS Including the $196 million extension for Portland's Damian Lillard, a $170 million extension for Denver's Jamal Murray and another in-the-works $170 million extension for Philadelphia's Ben Simmons, NBA teams have committed to spend roughly $4 billion in new deals that were struck in the last three weeks alone. And that's with 100 more signings to come, at least. That $4 billion figure is twice what the total payroll was a decade ago for every team in the league, combined......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 15th, 2019

End of an era: Westbrook exits Oklahoma City

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com LAS VEGAS – Just when you thought it was safe to step out from under a doorway, another seismic tremble rumbled through the NBA Las Vegas Summer League Thursday evening (Friday, PHL time). Earthquake again? Nope, just more Thunder. Get your first look at the NBA’s top Rookies during NBA Summer League LIVE on NBA League Pass! Oklahoma City and general manager Sam Presti were back at it, this time reportedly sending former Kia MVP Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for guard Chris Paul, first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025. Six days earlier, OKC had stunned the pro hoops world by trading All-Star wing Paul George to the LA Clippers, serving up the co-star that coveted free agent Kawhi Leonard wanted as a condition of signing with Staples Center’s other NBA team. That deal yielded for the Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, along with five first-round picks and swap rights on two more. The biggest difference in moving Westbrook was that this one was anticipated. George had gone to Presti quietly after conspiring with Leonard, requesting the trade in a way that enabled the OKC GM to work behind the scenes. Presti had leverage on the Clippers, since he in essence was delivering both two-way stars – George and Leonard, who otherwise might have re-signed with Toronto – simultaneously. The deal Thursday (Friday, PHL time) paired Presti with Rockets counterpart Daryl Morey. Given their trade-happy track records, it wasn’t surprising that, if an NBA fan listened closely, he or she might have heard the sound of gods bowling. George’s departure and OKC’s subsequent trade of forward Jerami Grant to Denver made it clear which direction the Thunder were heading. Getting ousted from the playoffs’ first round for three consecutive years made the team’s $146 million payroll (and the luxury taxes it triggered) untenable. “People [within the league] knew they were going to do something pretty profound,” one GM told NBA.com earlier this week. “What they got for George was more than a king’s ransom. And if they end up trading Russell for all the tea in China, it will be the same deal again, right?” There were other suitors, most notably Miami, fueling speculation that Presti might not be done. How about Chris Paul to the Heat for expiring contracts, a prospect or two and more draft assets? As it is, the Thunder already have lassoed or retained an outrageous 15 first-round picks over the next six years. That sets up Oklahoma City ridiculously well, on paper, for the medium- and long-term. Short-term? Meh. A crew of Paul (if he stays), Gallinari, Gilgeous-Alexander, Andre Roberson, Steven Adams and Terrance Ferguson seems undermanned in the wild, wild West. But Presti has amassed enough picks that Thunder fans won’t have to worry about their favorite team tanking -- they can just root against the Clippers, the Heat and the Rockets in hopes of desirable draft positions. Westbrook deserves credit for spending the first 11 years of his career in an unglamorous, small-revenue market (though $168 million in NBA earnings had something to do with it too). He had two MVPs (Kevin Durant and James Harden) and one MVP candidate (George last season) leave via trade or free agency before he did. Now he has a chance, re-teamed with Harden in Houston, to step into the void opened by Golden State’s anticipated decline in 2019-20 (Durant’s departure from the Bay has something to do with that). The Rockets and Morey have to be on the clock, their extended window as championship contenders not likely to stay propped open for long. Westbrook and Harden, a tandem of past MVPs, should have most of their statistical and usage itches scratched by now. Each badly needs a ring on his resume. Paul, meanwhile, might find himself hooking up with Jimmy Butler with the Heat, a pairing that makes more sense than Butler-Westbrook at least in terms of basketball compatibility. Presti’s performance over the past 10 days or so has been “breathtaking,” according to the rival GM. But with so many folks in and outside OKC so eager to spin the Thunder’s picks and prospects forward, a nagging question remains: What should we make of their past? In Presti’s 12 seasons, beginning with the franchise still in Seattle in 2007-08, his team has won 50 games or more six times (counting the 47-19 equivalent in lockout-shortened 2011-2012). Over the Thunder’s first 10 seasons in Oklahoma, only the San Antonio Spurs won more often. The Thunder have reached the postseason nine times, winning 14 series. They lost the Finals in five games to Miami in 2012, and got bounced three times from the conference finals, once from the West semifinals and four times from the first round. There were injuries and close calls, sure, but those are a part of it for everyone. Drafting, Presti strung together Durant (No. 2 overall in 2007), Westbrook (No. 4, ’08) and Harden (No. 3, '09). His record deeper into the first round has been predictably mixed: Reggie Jackson (No. 24, ’11) and Adams (No. 12, ’13) on one side of the ledger, fellows such as Perry Jones (No. 28, ’12), Mitch McGary (No. 21, ’14) and Cameron Payne (No. 14, ’15) on the other. The Thunder’s two most notable trades prior to this summer involved Harden going out and George coming in. When they sent out Harden -- the league’s reigning Kia Sixth Man of the Year award winner in 2012 -- it was an anticipatory financial move that for a time kept them out of luxury tax trouble ... as well as the Finals. When Presti traded for George in 2017, the players he gave up, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, had a better first season in Indiana than George in OKC. But as with Westbrook, Presti got George to sign a *cough* long-term extension, and the former Pacer finished third in MVP balloting this spring. So bottom line, which is it: Should the Thunder’s extended run as a contender in the West be applauded? Or should they be considered underachievers, considering the three MVPs they had – Durant in 2014, Westbrook in 2017 and Harden (with Houston) in 2018 – as well as George? OKC got a total of 25 seasons from those four players, 23 of them in tandem or as a trio. Only Durant as a rookie and Westbrook in 2016-17 worked as a solo act, star-wise. Those two plus George made a total of 17 All-Star appearances while playing for the Thunder, and in seven of the past nine seasons, OKC sent two to the February gala. That’s a lot of firepower for a fairly limited payoff (the lone Finals trip). So as excited as the Thunder and their fans might be for what’s headed their way, they’re right to feel melancholy over what’s done and now gone. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 12th, 2019